So couldn't someone sue to stop Sinclair

…from airing that anti-Kerry program? People are able to get injunctions for all kinds of reasons, sometimes not even legitimate ones.

I heard one of the people who appeared on the program filed a libel suit - why can’t he, or others file a suit to stop the airing of this program until after the election? Aren’t there laws against using the news media for political purposes?

This isn’t an opinion: I’m just curious and surprised that it seems the Kerry campaign isn’t trying anything (beyond complaining to the FCC).

Media Matters for America Underwrites Sinclair Broadcast Group Shareholder Demand

Because than Fahreneit 9/11 will face the same scrutiny. Michael Moore is working to get his documentary put on the air before the elections. I believe Fahreneit 9/11 is far more damaging than the Swift Boat Veteran’s documentary.

Anyway, that is just my opinion. I find it funny that both sides have double standards.

That’s like asking “can’t someone stop Michael Moore?” Freedom of speech cuts both ways mate.


True, but broadcast stations have specific obligations when it comes to political speech, due to their being licensed by the FCC. A movie studio or newspaper or cable channel can say whatever they want, short of libel or slander, but the FCC considers the radio spectrum to be public property, and requires certain amounts of restraint and fairness when it comes to political content. Sinclair is arguing that the film is news, and thus not subject to equal time regulations. A complaint will be brought against them when and if they air it, but I don’t think pre-emptive complaints can be done under FCC regulations.

It’s not the same. No one has tried to shut down right-wing theatrical films such as Michael Moore Hates America. The Sinclair controversy is purely an issue of TV’s fairness doctrine and the laws pertaining to in-kind political donations.

There are also laws against the government telling the news media what they can and can’t broadcast or print before it happens. It’s called “prior restraint” aka censorship.

The FEC might find that the broadcast violated election laws, but they certainly don’t have the authority to stop the broadcast before it airs. The FCC might find that the broadcast violated their rules and take action against the broadcaster, fining them or threatening their license, but they don’t have the authority to stop the broadcast before it airs. And the so-called “fairness doctrine” has been repealed since the 1980s. A person who might be libeled by the broadcast can sue to recover damages, but they don’t have the right to ask a judge to stop the broadcast before it airs. The shareholders are within their rights to complain and attempt to fire the executive who made the decision, since they are the owners of the station, but that is a purely internal business decision.

What you people are advocating is called censorship. For-real censorship, censorship designed to use the power of government to stop people from speaking their minds, because you all disagree with what they say. Did I mention that you all are advocating censorship? Don’t you feel even the slightest bit ashamed by that?

Don’t put words in my mouth. I advocated no such thing. I demand a retraction.

It’s censorship whether it happens before or after the fact - or rather, it would be, if they were actually being prevented from speaking their minds. They aren’t, and I haven’t seen anyone say they should be, only that they should be prevented from using the public airwaves to do it.

Sinclair has already started to back down, presumably due to pressure from shareholders and advertisers:

The airwaves are public property not, private. When it comes to a venue which is owned by the taxpayer, the taxpayer has a right not to have that venue hijacked by a specific political interest. That’s why we have the laws that we have concerning political advertising. Sinclair does not own the airwaves. WE do. It’s not a question of stopping the speech, per se, it’s about the venue for the speech. This is a political advertisement and nothing more. There are laws about political advertising. Sinclair is trying to pretend that it’s a “news” program but any political campaign could claim to be giving “news” if it wanted to.

Besides all that, the show contains misleading and false information. It’s not only a political ad, it’s a libelous one.

The special sounds a despicable pile of lies, but that’s why we have freedom of speech.

Further, most courts are very hostile toward prior restraint in freedom of speech cases. You can sue someone after it’s aired, but they are not going to stop people from airing (or publishing) something prior to when it’s made public.

It’s actually an illegal in-kind contribution violating election laws. Calling it news is stretching the concept well past any recognizable bounds and even if it is news it is of the worst sort that harkens back to William Randolph Hearst.

You can use all the euphemisms you like but only the terminally dumb would see this as anything but a media conglomerate’s effort to sway an election and that should deeply trouble everybody.

If this were to be likened to Farenheit 9/11 it would need to appear in theaters and on sale as a DVD. I’d certainly have no issue with that.

Free speech is a right but it is a limited right (e.g you can’t scream “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire). The government has also recognized as far back as the 1930’s that broadcast media are particularly powerful and instituted the “Equal Time” clause to make sure the media couldn’t unduly sway an election by favoring one candidate with coverage. Indeed, the reason for calling this “news” is that news is exempt from the Equal Time protections.

There is no doubt Sinclair is trying to wiggle through a loop hole and I hope they get creamed for it. Not because I dislike Bush or love Kerry but because I think what they are doing is frightening. If they aired Farenheit 9/11 as news as well I’d be only partially mollified…I do not think either should be broadcast at this juncture.


Also, at Wikipedia

I believe that the OP has been answered in GQ quite sufficiently.

Unfortunately, there’s just too much baggage. But I thanks those who gave factual answers.

Off to GD.

samclem GQ moderator

Television is already an undemocratic zone of restricted speech where censorship occurs all the time. In that kind of forum, where networks won’t accept paid advertising or programming they don’t like, or voluntarily offer reasonable balance, then it seems acceptable for citizens to lobby for the addition or omission of content. If the alternative is to bend over and take whatever the networks thrust at you, that’s a pretty one-way definition of “free speech.”

Freedom of speech and FCC regulation of the airwaves have nothing to do with it. What the OP is looking for is called a “shareholder derivative suit,” whereby one or more shareholders of the corporation sue the board members for doing something so transcendentally stupid and/or self-interested that there is no reasonable business explanation for what they’ve done.

The folks who run Sinclair have every right in the world to say whatever they want. They don’t have the right to wipe other their asses with their shareholders’ money.

Their right to say “whatever they want” is restricted.

In any case, Sinclair is backing down under pressure from shareholders, advertisers and, probably far down the list, Democrats. They aren’t airing Stolen Honor in its entirety, but rather another documentary, or sort of a meta-documentary, titled A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media that is supposedly about documentaries and their attempts to influence voting in the 2004 election.

You’ve seen it already? :dubious:

Moore had plans for a three-hour pay-per-view special involving F911 planned, but the plans were killed when the cable company abruptly cancelled the deal. Naturally, the rumors are that conservatives pressured the cable company into backing out; Moore is apparently looking into suing for breach of contract.

Yes, because it’s backed up by facts. :smiley: