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Bloomberg reports that the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 62 ABC affiliates, will preempt the Nightline broadcast when Ted Koppel spends the hour reading off the names of American servicemen killed in Iraq:
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. ordered its ABC affiliates to preempt tomorrow's broadcast of "Nightline,'' which will air the names and photos of U.S. military personnel who have died in combat in Iraq, saying the move is politically motivated.
"Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show, the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq,'' the company said in a faxed statement. Sinclair, which owns 62 U.S. television stations, said ABC is disguising political statements as news content.
Many readers may not recall this, but during the Teheran hostage crisis, Dan Rather traveled to the Iranian capitol in order to televise interviews with the American captives for a special titled (as I recall) "Christmas With The Hostages". I remember watching it and considering it an egregious exploitation of the situation, as Rather's questioning centered not just on the hostages' fears but also asking them how they were being treated and whether they thought their captors had legitimate gripes -- as if they could answer him honestly under those circumstances. I was also struck at that time by how little criticism Rather received for his embarassingly naive, at best, performance.
When I heard about Koppel's plan to read the names of those KIA in Iraq and display their photos, I was torn on how to react. On one hand, I believe that the current administration has been terribly remiss in not sharing the bravery and accomplishments of American soldiers, sailors, and Marines during this war, regardless of whether they died in battle. Giving public recognition to those who gave their last full measure to protect us and make a safer world would be a good way to start. However, Koppel's outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq, and the interesting omission of those who died in Afghanistan, makes the entire enterprise look suspiciously like an anti-war protest, no matter how ABC News denies it. Plus, as Hugh Hewitt noted, the fact that Koppel planned this during "sweeps week" confirms its exploitative nature instead of any honorable motivation.
Ted Koppel protests this interpretation, of course, in an interview with Al Tompkins, telling him:
You start to wonder after a while. I've been doing "Nightline" for over 24 years, I've been at ABC for 41 years, if that's really the impression I've left with people then I have failed in such a colossal way that I can't even begin to consider the consequences of it.
But quite apart from that, it seems to me absolutely silly that anyone would suggest that we were doing this for ratings. In point of fact, we were sitting around unaware that it was sweeps [emph mine], that's how dumb we are at "Nightline."
As Michele Catalano says at her mega-blog A Small Victory when producer Leroy Sievers trotted out the same line:
Show me an exec that doesn't know when sweeps starts and I'll show you an exec getting a pink slip.
Who believes for a moment that a broadcast professional, anchoring a show that had been rumored to be expendable because of declining ratings if David Letterman was available, doesn't know when the sweeps period comes around? Puh-leeze.
Good for the Sinclair Broadcast Group for holding ABC News to a standard to which it should be holding itself instead. (via Drudge)Sphere It Nightline&bodytext=Bloomberg reports that the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 62 ABC affiliates, will preempt the Nightline broadcast when Ted Koppel spends the hour reading off the names of American servicemen killed in Iraq: Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. ordered its ABC...&topic=politics"> View blog reactions
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