The broadcaster said Tuesday that 40 of its 62 TV stations would broadcast a one-hour news program entitled, "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media."
The announcement comes 10 days after the
Los Angeles Times
reportedthat the station group and its right-leaning executives were planning to pre-empt regular programming in the waning days of the presidentialcampaign to run an anti-Kerry documentary entitled, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal."
Critics of Sinclair protested that such a move was equivalent to bestowing free advertising time upon President Bush. Sinclair, meanwhile, denied that it ever planned to broadcast the documentary, issuing a statement that said, in part, "the program has not been videotaped and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized."
In recent days, the controversy has threatened to cause economic damage to Sinclair and its shareholders, with activists organizing online to pressure Sinclair's advertisers into encouraging the company not to go ahead with what was expected to be anti-Kerry programming.
On Friday, Lehman Brothers issued a report cutting its price target on the company from $10 to $9 in a report that mentioned the fallout from the "Stolen Honor" episode.
Shares in the broadcaster, which have been falling all year, established a new 52-week low of $6.12 Tuesday, down 60% from the 52-week high.
Shares closed at $6.26 Tuesday -- down 11% from Friday's close -- butgained 8 cents after hours on Sinclair's latest announcement.
Sinclair says the newly announced "A POW Story" news special "will focus in part on the use of documentaries and other media to influence voting, which emerged during the 2004 political campaigns, as well as on the content of certain of these documentaries," according to a statement.
"The program will also examine the role of the media in filtering theinformation contained in these documentaries, allegations of media bias bymedia organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news and the attemptsby candidates and other organizations to influence media coverage," saysSinclair.
The announcement doesn't disclose whether "A POW Story" will explore allegations that Sinclair itself is one of those media organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news. In April, several Sinclair stations refused to air a "Nightline" episode cataloging military dead in Iraq,saying at the time that the
late-night news program "is not reporting news; it is doing nothing more than making a political statement."
Sinclair said Tuesday it had never publicly announced that it would airthe "Stolen Honor" documentary in its entirety. But it does appear that theoriginally contested program will play some role in Friday's broadcast. "While the news special will discuss the allegations surrounding Senator John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activities in the early 1970s raised by a number of former POWs in 'Stolen Honor,' it will do so in the context of the broader discussion outlined above," Sinclair said.