More speech is better than less

More speech is better than less
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Being a broadcast media owner is a privilege that comes with great responsibility. I believe broadcast owners recognize this and the importance of factual and unbiased news reporting. As the owner of Howard Stirk Holdings (HSH), which holds several TV licenses and works with the Sinclair Broadcast Group (Sinclair) around the country, I make it a priority to assure that my stations report fair, balanced and unbiased news, and draw clear lines between news and commentary and opinion.  There is a reason freedom of the press is protected by the constitution and the role news plays in a free society is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. However, in today’s 24-hour news cycle, many are not only beginning to question the authenticity of what is being reported, but also the truthfulness.

More than 70 years ago the Supreme Court explained that democracy and the public interest are advanced with a diversity and variety of opinions (Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1, 20 (1945)). I reference this because I agree, more speech and viewpoint differences are better for a free society and foster First Amendment principles. This is why the barrage of negative coverage of the pending Sinclair-Tribune merger makes little sense to me. Sinclair and its various operating companies and licensees provide diverse and meaningful viewpoint diversity in the media marketplace. My Town Hall Specials, which Sinclair carries, have covered events like the Charleston, S.C. AME church shooting where nine people were shot and killed, including my cousin, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, during a Bible study by a racist trying to start a race war, and the horrendous shooting in Las Vegas where 58 concert-goers were killed. Such content illustrates the value of diverse coverage and the presentation of multiple viewpoints. This is what the Sinclair-Tribune merger will advance.


Sinclair does not exist within a vacuum from other media outlets, and I believe it has been unfairly judged, especially by those on the political left who don’t seem to respect differing viewpoints, and competitors in the market who fear further competition. These critics charge that Sinclair is a propaganda arm of conservatism, but the same could be just as easily said about mainstream media conglomerates, they are propaganda machines of liberalism (and I’m sure they would disagree).


I wonder what the coverage would be if it wasn’t Sinclair? To suggest that Sinclair is different in the media marketplace than other large media companies is just wrong. I cannot think of a media company – broadcast, satellite, cable, newspaper, print, Internet, etc. – that doesn’t use its platforms to communicate viewpoints. There is nothing unique about Sinclair, and it certainly is not as big as many of its media competitors, e.g., Disney, Comcast, the broadcast networks, AT&T, Verizon, Cablevision, Charter, News Corp, and even Jeff Bezos at the Washington Post Co. All of these competitors, and more, define the media marketplace. All of them spend mega-millions in getting their viewpoints out, lobbying government (at all levels) and the public and producing and sponsoring programs with manifestly liberal views. Moreover, the nightly avalanche of viewpoints coming from the late-night shows run by the networks – all providing “mandatory liberal commentary” – makes the question being asked regarding Sinclair seem trivial.

It is also worth mentioning that in addition to adding to the variety of views in the marketplace itself, Sinclair has also opened ownership opportunities for minority companies. My HSH companies are an example. For about 50 years the FCC and liberal advocacy groups have been paying lip service to advancing diversity and minority ownership. Sinclair has actually done it. Without Sinclair’s help, and opening doors to financing, which is the real barrier to minority ownership in the broadcast and media market, minority-owned companies like my HSH would not have been able to achieve my life-long dream of owning broadcast stations. Indeed, a discussion on that, and the hypocrisy of the left in saying it wants to advance minority ownership while actually opposing it when the minority holds different (conservative) views, would, it seems to me, be a far more interesting discussion.

Finally, I think Sinclair deserves mega-kudos as the industry leader advancing the new ATSC 3.0 transmission standard. Today, people want the capability to watch nearly anything they want, on any device, wherever they are, with content delivered over the air, over cable or satellite, via the Internet or locally stored. The broadcast industry must evolve to accommodate this demand, and with Sinclair’s leadership the ATSC 3.0 next-generation broadcast standard addresses that demand, using advanced transmission and video/audio coding techniques to bring new and creative services to viewers.

Bottom line, the Sinclair-Tribune merger will advance the public interest, enhance First Amendment principles and content/viewpoint diversity, help usher in technological improvement, and build on Sinclair’s proven record of aiding minority opportunity and ownership.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is author of the brand new book, "Reawakening Virtues." He served as an adviser and spokesman for Dr. Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonHUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy Inspector general: Zinke used taxpayer-funded travel for his wife Overnight Energy: Inspector general finds Zinke used taxpayer-funded travel for family | Interior says Trump appointee won't be new watchdog | EPA chief says agency taking climate report 'very seriously' MORE's 2016 presidential campaign, and is on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern.