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Church Appeals FCC Staff Ruling on License Renewal Challenges to Entire Panel

Sep 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The United Church of Christ is appealing to the whole Federal Communications Commission an FCC staff decision rejecting its license renewal challenges to NBC’s WTVJ-TV and CBS’s WFOR-TV in Miami.
The church filed its renewal challenges after NBC and CBS in 2004 refused to sell the church network time to run ads about religious tolerance. The church said it was told the ads, which used a “God is still speaking” theme, were too controversial.
The church responded by challenging individual licenses of network owned-and-operated stations, choosing south Florida because several networks have O&Os in the same market there.
The FCC’s Media Bureau rejected the challenges on Aug. 7, saying the local stations might have aired the spot if they had been asked and that the FCC can’t deny a station license over something that has nothing to do with that individual station.
In its appeal petition, the church contends that position ignores the additional cost of buying stations one by one. More important, the church said, the ruling would eviscerate the FCC’s “public interest” standard and “decades of precedent,” making it virtually impossible to challenge TV network actions, since local stations—not the networks—get FCC licenses.
“The effect of these decisions is to remove commission authority to examine network programming practices in the context of license renewal proceedings of network owned-and-operated stations,” the church said. “This impairs the commission’s ability to administer its policies pertaining to indecency, children’s television, news staging, payola and other important matters.”
While recognizing its challenge raises novel questions, the church said the proper authority to review them is the entire FCC, not the staff.
(Editor: Horowitz)

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