The Federal Communications Commission and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition squared
off Friday in oral arguments in the D.C. U.S. Court of Appeals, with the FCC
arguing that Rainbow/PUSH shouldn't even be there.
According to a source familiar with those arguments, although Rainbow/PUSH
asserted its charges that Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. used Pittsburgh broadcaster Eddie Edwards and
his Glencairn nine-station group as a front to circumvent restrictions on owning
two stations in a market -- and that Edwards had been less than truthful --
merits took a back seat to procedure.
The case instead appeared to turn on the FCC's challenge of Rainbow/PUSH's
standing to sue given that the duopoly restrictions have since been loosened.
To the extent Rainbow/PUSH was complaining about loss of diversity, the fact that
it was now permissible for Sinclair to own two stations in Oklahoma City and
Kerrville, Texas -- the markets for which Rainbow/PUSH offered up viewer complaints --
meant that there may no longer be a legally protected viewer interest in not
being exposed to co-owned stations in the same market.
Rainbow/PUSH said it had affidavits from viewers in other markets, but the court
essentially responded that it should already have presented that evidence.
It's an inexact science at best to handicap oral arguments, since judges
often play devil's advocate, but the source suggested that the court could well throw
out the case on the standing issue.
If it did reach the merits, however, and rule for Rainbow/PUSH in those two
markets, the FCC might then be forced to take a look at the other Sinclair
markets, he said.
Rainbow/PUSH had not returned calls at press time, and Sinclair declined to
comment, pointing out that it was not a party to the