NCTA: Belo Paper Breached Ethics

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The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has written the Dallas Morning News telling the Belo Corp.-owned paper that it failed in its ethical duty to disclose its parent's financial interest in the digital-TV-multicasting issue.

The paper, in a Feb. 7 editorial entitled "Go Digital, Stay Local," argued that the FCC should mandate cable carriage of all of a broadcasters' digital channels, an argument that Belo Chairman Robert Decherd has been making to Congress and the FCC.

"We believe Belo has an ethical duty to disclose its ownership interests whenever it uses the power of its public voice to advocate policies directly benefiting its own business interests," wrote NCTA SVP Rob Stoddard.

In response, Decherd called it an "interesting letter given that we have disclosed thousands of times over the last 25 years that Belo owns and a whole variety of newspapers and stations, including the Dallas Morning News."

That defense notwithstanding, the paper, which printed the letter Wednesday, called the failure to disclose "an oversight," but pointed out that it has regularly disclosed Belo's ownership of the paper, including in an editorial on must carry Feb. 1.Following is the editor's note that ran with the letter:

"The letter writer is correct that we didn't note Belo's ownership of The
Dallas
Morning News in this particular editorial. We regularly disclose Belo's ownership of the newspaper in both news stories and editorials, however, and this instance was simply an oversight. We disclosed the relationship, for example, in an editorial about the "must-carry" rule on Feb. 1 and in news stories that ran last Thursday and Friday."

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