FCC Denies Sweeping Chicago License Challenge


The FCC has denied a sweeping challenge to 18 Chicago TV stations by progressive internet publication Third Coast Press.

Saying  Third Coast Press was offering opinion rather than supplying sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, the commission rejected the challenge, which the group filed with the broadside that the stations had been "systematically negligent in serving the public interest in terms of their news and public affairs coverage, children's programming, and hypercommercialism."

The group singled out what it said was failing to serve the needs of minorities, including not enough minorities on air, and not enough debate over the Iraq War.

The stations had argued that Third Coast was voicing its opinions rather than backing up allegations, saying their coverage was within their editorial discretion, that it did serve the public, that their children's programming complied with FCC rules, and that hiring practices with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA).

The FCC uses a two step process. First, it must determine that there are sufficient allegations of fact to support taking the second step, which is to designate the challenge for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

The FCC found the challenge did not clear the first hurdle, so it did not have to look any farther.

There was not enough evidence that licensees actions might violate Children's TV Rules or the EEOA. Further, the FCC said, First Amendment protection of broadcaster news judgments gives the FCC "little authority to interfere" with station calls about what to cover and how to cover it. Third Coast did not offer evidence that any of the stations exercised that judgment "in bad faith," said the FCC, so the complaint was denied.