Originally published: January 12, 2010
Last updated: January 12, 2010 - 3:26pm
The Federal Communications Commission has dismissed a second Petition for Reconsideration opposing the license renewals of eight Chicago (IL) area and 11 Milwaukee (WI) area television stations.
Chicago Media Action and Milwaukee Public Interest Media Coalition argued in their respective petitions to deny that the television stations serving the Chicago and Milwaukee markets failed to present adequate programming relating to state and local elections during the last four weeks of the 2004 election campaign, and submitted, as support, a study analyzing programming on the five highest-rated commercial television stations in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets. The 2007 FCC staff letter denied these allegations on the basis that CMA and MPIMC failed to provide evidence that the licensees exercised their editorial discretion in bad faith. In their respective petitions for reconsideration, CMA and MPIMC alleged that the staff was incorrect in concluding that it did not have the authority to review the broadcasters' programming decisions, and that it failed to consider the numerical data contained in the study attached to the petitions to deny. They submitted an additional study which they claimed provided further evidence of a marketwide failure to broadcast sufficient coverage of elections and government in 2006.
The staff reaffirmed that the Commission does not generally question the editorial discretion of a broadcaster, but that the editorial decisions of a broadcaster may be reviewed where such discretion is exercised in "bad faith;" affirmed its earlier determination that the petition and attached study did not demonstrate that television programming in Milwaukee and Chicago was generally unresponsive; and found the updated study was insufficient to alter this determination as it only covered news programming on the major network affiliates during the early and late evening news broadcasts.
In this Second Petition for Reconsideration, CMA and MPIMC cite the 2008 release of the Enhanced Disclosure Order, arguing that the FCC's decision is "premised on the value of collecting information which the staff erroneously held was irrelevant to its public interest determination." The various oppositions filed by broadcasters in Chicago and Milwaukee generally argue that the Second Petition for Reconsideration is repetitious and procedurally improper, and that the Enhanced Disclosure Order relied upon by CMA and MPIMC did not place any quantitative programming obligations on broadcast television licensees.
The staff conclude that there is nothing in the language of the Enhanced Disclosure Order that indicates an affirmative restraint on licensee programming discretion.