Trillium Asset Management Warns Sinclair Sponsors(A)
This week, the Sinclair Broadcasting Group plans to pre-empt national programming and force the 62 local TV stations it owns to broadcast “Stolen Honor”, which is reported to be a highly partisan and controversial program criticizing John Kerry. Sinclair plans to broadcast the show as news rather than commentary, and does not plan to provide the Kerry campaign with equal time for a response. Yesterday, the company fired its Washington News Bureau Chief Jon Leiberman after he complained to a local paper that the planned show is “biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election.” This is not the first time that Sinclair has faced high-profile controversy for perceived partisanship. Earlier this year, the company generated headlines when it refused to allow its ABC affiliates to air a Nightline episode that honored soldiers killed in Iraq.
Over the past year, we’ve devoted significant time to media reform issues, including encouraging some of the broadcast companies we hold to do more to meet their public interest obligations. We see Sinclair’s actions as an egregious violation of those obligations. We don’t currently hold Sinclair stock, but we do hold a number of companies that have advertised on Sinclair-owned stations. We gotten in touch with seven of these companies to ask them how they are responding to the controversy. We suggested they ask Sinclair to abandon its plan to air the program “Stolen Honor” until at least after the Presidential election. We also urged them to protect their brands, reputation, and long-term shareholder value by suspending all future advertising buys from Sinclair Broadcasting until the company has demonstrated that it will uphold the standards of the public interest obligations expected of all media companies in this country. We warned them that we believe to do otherwise could expose them as advertisers to future controversies or boycotts stemming from Sinclair’s pattern of partisan activities.
We’ll report what results this generates and will also share more about our media reform advocacy on our website and in future issues of our newsletter, Investing for a Better World.