Sinclair editorials labeled as such

Hyman `amused' by campaign about his commentaries

December 15, 2004|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Mark Hyman, the on-air editorial voice of Sinclair Broadcast Group, says he's "amused" by a campaign that a coalition of liberal public interest groups has launched against him and the Hunt Valley-based broadcaster.

Led by Media Matters for America, a Web-based watchdog organization aimed at monitoring conservative thought in the media, the group claims that Sinclair "abuses the public airwaves" at its 62 owned or operated TV stations, particularly by airing a Hyman commentary segment, `The Point,' without opposing points of view.

"`The Point' contains a steady stream of one-sided, anti-progressive and pro-Bush rhetoric that is broadcast without a progressive counterpoint," David Brock, president of Media Matters, said in a telephone news conference yesterday.

Noting a Media Matters content survey of Hyman editorials, Brock said, "Our analysis found that Hyman repeatedly attacked Sen. John Kerry and other prominent Democrats and progressives, charged liberal media bias and made repeated references to the `angry left,' while promoting George W. Bush and his policies."

Actions urged by the group include a letter-writing campaign to major companies that advertise on Sinclair highlighting the "conservative slant" of its broadcasts and urging the advertisers to demand that Sinclair provide equal time for a "progressive" point of view.

"I'm a little amused that in a 160-hour programming week [of news on Sinclair stations], anybody would be concerned with my comments, which run one or two minutes long on a daily basis for a total of 10 to 15 minutes a week," Hyman, a vice president at Sinclair, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "If they want to start a letter-writing campaign, I think from a public-service perspective, they'd be better served if they sent letters to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for goodness sakes."

Saying that he did not understand "their concern," Hyman said he's one of the few commentators on television who has the word "commentary" flashing on the screen as he speaks.

"I think the word `commentary' must flash across the screen ... about 58 times, and the word is on the screen the entire time that I appear - we go out of our way to make sure people know it's purely opinion," he said.

"So, for an organization to kind of get wrapped around the axle and be really concerned about opinion, just seems to be a misplaced priority. They would be better served if they focused on news content. ... I think the fact that they don't talk about our news portion of our newscasts suggests that they're satisfied that the newscasts are honest, balanced and impartial. I certainly think they are."

Currently, broadcasters are not required to present both sides on a controversial issue. The Fairness Doctrine, which dated back to 1949 and required such balance, was a victim of deregulation in 1987.

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