Contact: Barry Faber, VP & General Counsel
BALTIMORE (December 11, 2007) - Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: SBGI) announced today that it had recently filed an opposition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) issued by the FCC on October 18, 2007. In the NAL, the FCC accused a number of Sinclair stations of failing to comply with disclosure rules regarding political announcements as a result of the broadcast by these stations of an episode of the nationally syndicated, public affairs program "America's Black Forum."
As detailed in the filing made by Sinclair with the FCC, "America's Black Forum" is an Emmy-award winning program which addresses current events and differs from programs such as "Face the Nation" and "Meet the Press" only in that "America's Black Forum" is targeted to an African American audience. Although the FCC's issuance of the NAL appears to have been motivated by the appearance of Armstrong Williams in the program at the same time as he was apparently being paid by the Department of Education to promote the "No Child Left Behind Act," the FCC mistakenly assumed that Mr. Williams was the producer or owner of the program. In fact, however, Mr. Williams was simply a paid political commentator on a program that was produced by Uniworld Group, Inc., an unrelated company owned by the African American entrepreneur Byron Lewis, Sr.
Although a number of press accounts regarding the NAL have erroneously claimed that Sinclair was fined for violating what are commonly referred to as the FCC's "payola/plugola" rules, the NAL actually alleges that Sinclair violated rules requiring sponsorship identification of political broadcast matter. These rules, however, are wholly inapplicable to a syndicated program such as "America's Black Forum" in that the rules only apply to political matter which a broadcaster is "induced" to air. In other words, the political disclosure rules only apply if a broadcaster receives something of value (which can be a payment or the receipt of the program for free) in exchange for airing the material. In the case of "America's Black Forum," however, the Sinclair stations, as is customary with syndicated programming, actually provided consideration to the producers of the program in order to obtain the right to broadcast the program in certain markets.
"Broadcasters should be very concerned about the Notice of Apparent Liability issued against Sinclair in this matter," stated Barry Faber, Sinclair's Vice President and General Counsel, "because of the dangerous precedent which it would set. To our knowledge the FCC's political disclosure rules have never before been used to fine a television station for airing a public affairs program simply because a paid guest on the program may have received payment from a third party with an interest in what that commentator had to say." Mr. Faber noted further that, "It is simply unworkable and unreasonable to expect broadcasters to interrogate every guest who appears on a public affairs show produced by a third party in an attempt to determine whether the views expressed were in any way influenced by consideration received by the guest. We are hopeful that once the FCC understands the impossibility of avoiding the situation complained of in the NAL, the lack of knowledge by Sinclair about the underlying facts which prompted the NAL and the erroneous factual assumptions which apparently underlay the issuance of the NAL, that it will be rescinded."
"Sinclair is proud to have aired such high caliber, award-winning programming as "America's Black Forum," said David Smith, Sinclair's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "The show not only discussed issues of great importance to the American public in general, but did so in a manner expressly intended to target the underserved African American audience. It is a shame that the FCC chose to issue a Notice of Apparent Liability against our stations solely as the result of facts involving a guest on the show when such facts were not known to either the producers of the program or to Sinclair. This action by the FCC, which may create a chilling effect on broadcasters' willingness to broadcast programs like "America's Black Forum," is particularly ironic given its issuance at a time when the FCC has expressed concerns about the efforts of broadcasters to meet their public service obligations"
A copy of the filing at the FCC made by Sinclair can be located on Sinclair's web site (www.SBGI.net) under "News Releases."
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies, currently owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 57 television stations in 35 markets. Sinclair's television group reaches approximately 22% of the U.S. television households and is affiliated with all the major networks.
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