Giant US office supplies retailer Staples says it is withdrawing its advertising from TV news programming aired by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, citing as its reason customer complaints about right-wing bias.

The Staples move was triggered by a massive email campaign targeting advertisers and protesting at the broadcaster's interrelation of news broadcasts with the political views of its controlling Smith family.

Sinclair, a relatively smalltime Maryland-based operator, attracted the spotlight of national attention last fall when it aired an anti-Kerry polemic, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, in the final days of the presidential election campaign.

Claims Sinclair ceo David D Smith: "No one from Staples has called me. I think I would eventually hear about it if and when it happens."

Sinclair has been targeted since December by liberal media advocacy group Media Matters for America. MMA claims the company is abusing the public airwaves to promote a conservative agenda and not offering politically balanced news.

MMA supporters accordingly organized an email protest campaign, breaking December 14 via a special website and drawing their bias concerns to the attention of high-spending advertisers - among them Geico, Kraft Foods, McDonald's, Sprint, Staples and Target. Between them they have received 36,200 individual emails of protest.

Staples was guarded when asked to confirm its reasons for quitting Sinclair's news output, claiming that it formed only "a very small part of the overall buy".

Said spokesman Owen Davis: "Staples does not disclose the decision-making or specifics of its media-buying activity. With that said, Staples did consider among other factors the concerns expressed by our customers."

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff