Friday, February 11, 2005

SINclair, the Right Wing Media Machine and Porn

Time for a Sinclair update, seems timely since propaganda is on everyone's minds these days. The Daily News - Campaign Extra is running this piece:

Porn and the rightwing media -- it's Sinclair's turn

Watching the outing of the Pseudo-Journalist Formerly Known as Jeff Gannon has been so much fun that we briefly forgot about the dual tragedies of Nov. 2 and Feb. 6. But we want you to know that Jimmy Dale Guckert isn't the only rightwing media type to have a link to the pornography industry.

Remember David Smith and his Sinclair Broadcast Group? You know, the company with 51 far-flung TV stations, who wouldn't show the "Nightline" honoring the war dead and who tried to get the anti-John Kerry documentary on the air just days before the election. Some of us had a good time with Smith's 1996 bust after an encounter-on-wheels with a prostitute in a seedy district of Baltimore.

Now it gets better (or worse). A former partner is giving Rolling Stone -- in this excellent new article by Eric Klinenberg about the bizarro right-wing world of Sinclair -- new details about Sinclair CEO Smith's start in the world of business, which was ...copying porno films! And the first one was "Deep Throat." (not that one....this one). Check out what the article says:

Smith had some experience in the media when he took over the company from his father -- but it wasn't the kind of work most conservatives would appreciate. In the 1970s, he was a partner in a business called Cine Processors, which made bootleg copies of porn films in the basement of a building owned by another of his father's companies, the Commercial Radio Institute. "We had the film-processing lab in operation for, like, a year," recalls David Williams, Smith's partner at Cine. "The first film we copied was Deep Throat, which had just opened in New York and was not available anywhere else." According to Williams, Cine got involved with the mob and was busted by the police. "How David got control of the family company after that, I don't know," he says. "He was just a big egotist. He wanted attention."

There's a little more from the Rolling Stone piece that caught my eye, it's the opening couple of paragraphs:

Last year, when conservative commentator Armstrong Williams took $240,000 in payoffs from the Bush administration to promote its education policies in the media, he needed to reach a national television audience to satisfy the terms of his lucrative deal. Fortunately for Williams, he was good friends with David Smith, the CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation's largest owner of television stations.

Although Smith says he didn't know Williams was on the take, he liked the pundit's pro-Bush views and was eager to hand him plum assignments at Sinclair. While on the Bush payroll, Williams did an interview for Sinclair with then Education Secretary Rod Paige, the man responsible for funneling him taxpayer money to secure such prime-time exposure. He also interviewed Majority Whip Tom DeLay, and even got an hour on camera with Vice President Dick Cheney, who rarely speaks to the media. "Sinclair brought me stuff that I did not have -- real numbers, where you can get the speaker of the house or the VP," Williams tells ROLLING STONE. "On Sinclair, I was talking to millions of viewers a night."

Even before the payoffs became public, the news staff at Sinclair was horrified. The producer who edited the interview Williams did with Paige calls it "the worst piece of TV I've ever been associated with. You've seen softballs from Larry King? Well, this was softer. I told my boss it didn't even deserve to be broadcast, but they kept pushing me to put more of it on tape. In retrospect, it was so clearly propaganda."

The other night while poking around in some comment threads I picked up a link to a neat little tool, Source Watch. Their database has a nice little bio on Armstrong Williams. Did you know that he was a protegé of Republican senator Strom Thurmond? Talk about an odd match.

Here's a bonus link, Pentagon Paid Reporters for Stories Overseas