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Martin Wants to Know Why ’60 Minutes’ Segment Didn’t Air in Alabama

Mar 4, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin wants to know why a Huntsville, Ala., station to explain why it went dark during CBS’ “60 Minutes,” and has told the agency’s media bureau to get some answers. The outage occurred during a segment that suggested political pressure played a role in the corruption case against the state’s former Democratic governor.
Mr. Martin said Tuesday that the FCC had received about 20 complaints questioning WHNT-TV’s outage. The segment of CBS’ “60 Minutes” suggested pressure to bring charges against the popular governor, Don Siegelman, had come from former White House aide Karl Rove.
The station has said a technical fault in a piece of equipment, not politics, caused the blackout just as the segment was airing; a similar glitch affected a basketball game the previous day, it added.
The station has since replayed the “60 Minutes” segment on the air and on the air of a sister station.
WHNT-TV is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners, whose lead investor is Robert M. Bass. Mr. Bass has contributed to both Democratic and GOP campaigns.
On Monday, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps questioned whether the incident was an example of a station failing to serve the public interest, akin to 1950s-era Southern stations not airing network reporting about the civil rights movement.
“The FCC needs to find out if something analogous is going on here,” he told a Benton Foundation forum. “Was this an attempt to suppress information on the public airwaves or was there really a technical problem?
“If the decision was intentional, who made the decision on this? The FCC needs to get to the bottom of this.”
He called for the FCC to issue a formal inquiry into the incident.
Mr. Martin didn’t characterize the incident as a formal inquiry yet, but he said the FCC is looking into what happened, and had asked the station to respond to the complaints.
Pam Taylor, a spokeswoman for the station owner, said, “We are confidant that the facts speak for themselves and there will be no need for an investigation.”

7 Comments

  1. What I find funny about this whole story is the fact that the NEW YORK TIMES wrote a story DOGGING A TV STATION IT OWNED LESS THAN A YEAR AGO. The company that owes WHNT-TV19 now bought it from THE NEW YORK TIMES LESS THAN A YEAR AGO. How did they plant all those REPUBLICANS in there so fast??
    NOTE: The General Manager of WHNT-TV19 is a registered Democrat and has only been the general manager of the station for 2 months. DOHH…

  2. This is what the FCC should be doing instead of fining networks over content that aired five years ago.
    But this time, I’m giving the network the benefit of the doubt about technical problems. I live in an area with a Local TV LLC-owned CBS affiliate, and they aired the story with no problem.

  3. Given that CBS transmits their signal using digital equipment, much of which is flaky (not just CBS’, but all of it – ask any station’s engineer), I can certainly believe the station.
    The fact that the segment has been rerun multiple times since shows there’s no “evil intent” involved here – other than an attempt to smear the station owners involved.

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