Federal Communications Commission license renewals of 50 TV stations in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia are being held up until the commission resolves petitions to revoke licenses and outstanding complaints against the stations, primarily for indecency. For a few of those stations, renewals might not come until next year.
Only one quarter of the 77 stations in the four states won FCC renewals on Oct. 1, the day licenses there were set to expire.
The FCC is expected to approve the bulk of the stalled renewals after ruling on the indecency complaints, many of which could be resolved next week.
Ten stations, including WBRR Baltimore and Washington area outlets WDCA, WJLA, WPXW, WRC, and WTTG face either petitions to deny or informal objections to renewal that might not be resolved until early 2005.
In either case, the broadcasters get to keep on broadcasting until there is some resolution.
The four states are the first of 18 blocks of TV licenses the FCC must renew through 2007. The industry is watching the first group closely.
The current renewal cycle is first since the Congress greatly relaxed renewal requirements in 1996, but opponents of media consolidation and other activists are vowing to fight renewals of stations they believe are not providing appropriate programming to children or otherwise living up to public interest obligations.