The FCC has denied a challenge to a total of 19 TV stations in Milwaukee and Chicago, saying the petitioners had not demonstrated that the stations had failed to provide adequate election coverage in 2004, and effectively telling stations and activists to try to work out their public interest differences themselves.
Citing a Study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, the Media Access Project, representing Chicago Media Action (CMA) and the Milwaukee Public Interest Media Coalition (MPIMC), had argued that less than 1% of their regularly scheduled newscasts and public affairs shows in a one-month period leading up to the Novebmer 2004 election were devoted to non-federal races.
MAP had said that "the paucity of coverage of local elections" was "inconsistent [with] the principle of localism that the Communications Act demands," as the FCC framed the argument in its decision rejecting the petition.
The FCC said that it has "very little authority to interfere with a licensee’s selection and presentation of news and editorial programming," and that it was not in the business of reviewing stations' news judgment.
"The petitions have not provided evidence that the named licensees exercised their editorial discretion in bad faith," the FCC said, adding that "[q]uantity is not necessarily an accurate measure of the overall responsiveness of a licensee’s programming. The study provided only concerns one type of programming, local election coverage just prior to the 2004 election. It does not demonstrate that television programming in Chicago or Milwaukee has generally been unresponsive."
The FCC put in a plug for a pending rulemaking on increasing broadcasters' public interest disclosure requirements," and said it wants to promote discussion between stations and viewers about how best broadcasters can serve the public interest.
"we urge all viewers and listeners, including such organizations as CMA and MPIMC," the FCC concluded.