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Staples to Drop Ads on Sinclair TV Newscasts

Times Staff Writer

Staples Inc., the world’s largest retailer of office products, will no longer advertise on Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s local television news programs, a spokesman announced Tuesday.

The decision was partly based on e-mails sent by individuals who identified themselves as customers and complained that Sinclair’s political commentary was one-sided, said Owen Davis, spokesman for Framingham, Mass.-based Staples. He did not specify the amount of advertising but said it was a “very small” part of Staples’ overall media buy.

David Brock, spokesman for Media Matters for America, said it was the first victory for the liberal group formed in December to persuade advertisers to drop Sinclair, which was thrust into the public spotlight last year.

As one of the largest TV station owners in the country, the Hunt Valley, Md.-based operation drew criticism when it centralized the news operations of many of its stations nationwide. In May, Sinclair banned its seven ABC affiliates from showing a “Nightline” roll call of military dead in Iraq, calling it political commentary “disguised as news content.”

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And shortly before the November election, Sinclair planned to air a film critical of Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry’s military record. After the plan was publicized, prompting advertiser defections and a plummeting stock price, Sinclair instead aired an Oct. 22 special that incorporated parts of the anti-Kerry documentary and another film more sympathetic to Kerry.

In the wake of Kerry’s defeat, the liberal coalition launched a website asking consumers to e-mail advertisers protesting what it called Sinclair’s “misuse of public airwaves,” in particular a daily one-minute commentary called “The Point” by Sinclair spokesman Mark Hyman.

Brock said more than 30,000 e-mails had been sent to Sinclair advertisers, including Staples. “We were hoping to engage Sinclair in a constructive dialogue about their conservative bias in their newscasts and ‘The Point,’ ” he said.

Hyman was not available for comment. In the past, he has called Democrats “the angry left” and pointed to a liberal bias in the media.

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Staples spokesman Davis said the e-mails used “similar language” about the programming and stated that they were sent by a Staples customer.

Davis did not specify the number of e-mails Staples had received. But, he said, it was enough that it warranted consideration.

“Certainly, we take the concerns of our customers seriously,” Davis said.


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