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Radio station drops CBS News over Guard flap

A news-talk radio station in southeastern Virginia has dumped CBS News because of listener outrage over Dan Rather’s “60 Minutes” report questioning President Bush’s National Guard service.

WNIS switched Thursday to ABC News.

“We had so much outcry from our listeners. They were calling and complaining and saying they wouldn’t listen to a CBS newscast anymore,” said Lisa Sinclair, general manager of Sinclair Communications, which owns WNIS and four other stations in the Norfolk area, home to the world’s largest naval base.

“This is a conservative market, and people felt that CBS was exhibiting a great deal of liberal bias and lost credibility with this situation,” Sinclair said, referring to the Sept. 8 story.

Rather apologized on behalf of CBS News on Monday because it could not authenticate documents used in the story that suggested Bush got preferential treatment to get into the Texas Guard during the Vietnam War.

Sinclair did not know how many upset listeners had called the station. WNIS received some calls Thursday from people pleased with the station’s decision, she said.

CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said the network has more than 1,000 radio affiliates nationwide and WNIS is the only one to drop CBS. None of the network’s more than 200 television affiliates has done so.

“We regret that WNIS made this decision based on this one issue alone,” McClintock said. “CBS Radio News has a rich history of providing its listeners with the best objective coverage in the industry.”

WNIS carries a number of opinion-based talk shows, including those of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.

But WNIS wants “unbiased, simple reporting of the news without any kind of political agenda or any other agenda,” Sinclair said.

The Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News area is the nation’s 40th-largest broadcast market, according to Arbitron.

Sinclair Communications also owns four stations in Santa Rosa, Calif., and has a partnership with Emmis Communications in six stations in Austin, Texas.

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