Local media activists in Iowa are preparing to file a petition with the FCC to deny a license renewal for Sinclair Broadcast Group’s CBS affiliate KGAN Cedar Rapids. The group, Iowans for Better Local Television, says the station violates FCC’s ownership rules by failing to provide sufficient local news, supplying inadequate broadcast signals and failing to meet standards for children’s programming.
The group has been working for more than a year to gather evidence and support for its petition. Former FCC commissioner Nick Johnson, a well known critic of big-media ownership, has been advising the efforts.
KGAN’s license came up for renewal in October, and, under FCC guidelines, the public has until Dec. 30, 2005, to file its petition. The Local Iowans group is calling on the FCC to hold a public hearing to determine if KGAN has met its “statutory public interest” standards before renewing the license.
Iowans for Better Local TV originated last fall, outraged by Sinclair's airing of the documentary Stolen Honor, which called into question presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) Vietnam service and subsequent anti-war activities. In advance of its broadcast, local activists called on advertisers to boycott the station.
After the election, the group joined up with former University of Iowa professor Ted Remington, who had started a blog to counter on-air editorials by Sinclair PR chief Mark Hyman. The segments, called “The Point,” air on most Sinclair stations as part of its centralized news operation, News Central. Critics say Hyman's editorials are a way for the company to push a right-wing agenda over public airwaves.
The Iowans say they’ve reached out to local KGAN managers asking for meetings but they have been rebuffed.