FCC Denies United Church of Christ Miami License Challenges

Agency Rules in Favor of Miami’s WTVJ, WFOR

The Federal Communications Commission Tuesday denied challenges to the licenses of NBC Universal's WTVJ (TV) and CBS' WFOR-TV, both Miami.

The challenges were filed by the United Church of Christ after the NBC and CBS networks declined back in 2004 to air UCC ads on religious tolerance that the networks said violated their policies against paid editorial advertising.

As the FCC described the ad in the WFOR decision, "The spot depicts would-be worshippers approaching a church guarded by bouncers who refuse entrance to what appears to be a gay couple, a Hispanic young man, a man in a wheelchair and an African-American woman, followed by the tag, ‘Jesus didn’t turn people away … Neither do we.’” The spot then concludes with the statement: “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.”

The commission pointed out that it was the networks, not the stations, that declined to air the ads, adding that it could not deny an application based on violations at other stations. "UCC does not allege that it ever offered the spot at issue to station WFOR-TV," FCC Media Bureau staffers concluded. "According to CBS, it is the policy of the Viacom Television Stations Group ‘to leave decisions as to whether to accept particular editorial advertisements to the individual discretion of each station.’ Station WFOR-TV may have chosen to air the spot had it been offered the opportunity."

It used the same argument to deny the WTVJ challenge.