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Sinclair survey: Majority support airing of opposing political views

Survey: Overwhelming Majority Support Airing of Opposing
Political View in Sinclair Broadcast of “Stolen Honor”

Of Americans Who Support Sinclair Decision, 69% Say Should Air Other Side

Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004
Contact: Susan Herold, CU, 202-462-6262
Mark Cooper, CFA, 202-384-2204
(Washington, D.C.) – A new national survey on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s initial decision to air a program on Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam War record found that the overwhelming majority of Americans aware of the issue believe the opposing political point of view should be broadcast, no matter where they stood on the program’s airing.
The survey, conducted Oct. 19-20, found that 78 percent of those who were aware of “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” said broadcasters should air the opposing point of view if the program is broadcast. Support for airing of the piece was split – 51 percent who knew of it supported the decision; 41 percent opposed it; 9 percent had no opinion.
The survey by Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, did not ask respondents’ political affiliation. Consumers Union does not take positions on political candidates.
Even among those who support the Sinclair broadcast, 69 percent felt the program should be balanced by the opposing point of view.
“It’s abundantly clear the public wants and expects balance, fairness and equal time from its local broadcasters when it comes to political issues,” said Gene Kimmelman, Consumers Union’s senior director of public policy. “We call on Sinclair Broadcasting to meet this public expectation of balance, and if it doesn’t, we call on all broadcasters to ensure both sides of this issue are fairly presented.”
Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America commissioned the survey after asking Sinclair – which plans to air an hour-long program Friday on many of its 62 stations reaching almost one-quarter of American viewers – to survey residents in those communities on whether they believe the broadcast serves the public interest and preserves the free flow of independent ideas. Consumers Union is not aware that Sinclair conducted a survey, nor other local broadcasters asked by CU.
The survey showed wide support for providing candidates the opportunity to respond on air – 92 percent completely or somewhat agreed that equal time should be provided to candidates; 70 percent felt it would be “inappropriate” for a local TV broadcaster to air a program that was critical of a candidate without providing the other candidate the opportunity to respond.
The majority of adults also feel local TV broadcasters have a responsibility to act in the public interest, a position that 90 percent completely or somewhat agree with.
“The fact that public opinion supports fair play in the media and public responsibilities of broadcasters is consistent with a long line of Supreme Court cases that has upheld limits on media ownership and other rules to ensure a robust exchange of views,” said Mark Cooper, CFA director of research. “Ultimately, it is the vigilance of each and every citizen that is the guarantor of our democracy, and the grassroots opposition to Sinclair’s high-handed behavior should put all broadcasters on notice that the airwaves must be used to promote the public interest.”
Respondents also have a clear view of the role of local TV broadcasters. Overwhelmingly they feel it is very important for local TV broadcasters to discuss local issues and cover local news and events, 70 percent and 81 percent respectively. Yet when asked how well local broadcasters do in serving the community’s needs, only 13 percent thought they did a very good job.
To download the survey summary and information on how the survey was conducted, Click Here.
To download the complete survey, Click Here
To see comments from some of the survey respondents, Click Here.
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