Sinclair Broadcast Group is attacking a petition filed at the FCC by the American Cable Association calling for regulators to review whether the owner of several Fox- and ABC-affiliated stations around the nation’s capital is still fit to hold broadcast licenses.
In a letter to the General Accountability Office, Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, citing Fox O&O WWOR New York, which is licensed to their state, claim the FCC hasn’t held it to its “special obligations to serve New Jersey.” In their letter, the senators ask a series of questions that amount to a call for specific and concrete license renewal criteria, which the broadcasting industry has long opposed.
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has largely completed its review of pending complaints, clearing the way for the Media Bureau to grant almost 700 license renewals this week. Many of these pending complaints were presumably based on indecency claims, which have in recent years created such a backlog of license renewal applications (particularly for TV stations) that it has not been unusual for a station to have multiple license renewal applications pending at the FCC, even though such applications are only filed every eight years.
Law professor John F. Banzhaf III has filed a petition at the FCC calling on it to deny license renewal for Washington Redskins-owned WWXX-FM, because, he claims, the word “Redskins” is — in the eyes of both American Indians and non-Indians — an offensive ethnic slur and that its use “constitutes hate speech” and might cause “hate crimes against Indians.”
Criticism about the decision by Fox-owned WWOR Secaucus, N.J. (New York), to replace its nightly newscast with Chasing New Jersey continued Tuesday with calls for the FCC to revoke the station’s license. In a letter to FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez asked for a “prompt and thorough” review of News Corp.’s application to renew its license and a ruling about “misrepresentations by WWOR” that were first investigated by the FCC in 2011. Menendez’s criticism came a day after U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone also called on the FCC to not renew the station’s license.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics says the British phone-hacking scandel shows that the News Corp. subsidiary “lacks the requisite character to hold broadcast licenses here in the United States.’ The stations involved are WTTG-WDCA Washington and WUTB Baltimore.’
For many years the FCC’s TV license renewal application has required mainly yes-or-no answers about compliance throughout the license term with various FCC requirements. For the upcoming renewal cycle, the FCC has added a new certification question about non-discriminatory television advertising sales agreements.
During the last license renewal cycle, the FCC handed out an unprecedented number of fines to broadcasters who failed to file their license renewal applications on time. There is, however, such as thing as being too early. The FCC has already returned at least four license renewal applications because they were filed too early.
Broadcasters don’t know it yet, but recent actions by the Department of Justice suggest that the federal government may be moving closer to raining on their upcoming license renewals. The reason? Medical marijuana advertising.
It’s that time again, and communciations attorney Lee Shubert cautions against taking a cavalier approach to license renewal certifications. “Be mindful that your station license is probably your most valuable business asset, and that it is at jeopardy during the license,” he says in the latest issue of Financial Manager.
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps says TV and radio stations should be required to air more public interest programming as a condition of license renewal.