Media groups in Oregon are challenging the FCC license renewals of local TV stations that fail to serve the public interest. On December 22, Money In Politics Research Action Project (MIPRAP), along with the Oregon Alliance to Reform Media, the Campaign Legal Center, and the Media Access Project, filed a challenge with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to not renew the broadcast licenses of KPTV, KATU, KOIN and KGW.
“They’re using the public airwaves for free and, in return, they’re supposed to meet public-interest obligations,” said Janice Thompson, of the Money in Politics Research Action Project.
As reported by the Portland Mercury
The Money in Politics Research Action Project (MIPRAP) says the four local commercial stations—KATU, KOIN, KGW, and KPTV—have failed in their requirement to provide public interest programming, including local election coverage. They’ve based their findings on a study of the stations’ news coverage during the month before the 2004 general election, which showed that a scant 4.9 percent of news programming covered the elections.
A 2004 study of local news coverage local TV stations spent only one half of one percent of news time on local elections, and hence failed to ‘serve the public interest’ …By contrast, local stations raked in nearly $27 million in political advertising during 2004.
And of that coverage, a total of six stories covered city elections, despite the fact there was a mayoral race and a hotly contested commissioner race. More than 75 percent of the political coverage was spent on the presidential race, with small amounts given to ballot measures and state and federal legislative races.
Federal law says broadcasters may be licensed to use the public airways only if they serve the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” And FCC rules say, “The basic responsibility to contribute to the overall discussion of issues confronting the community is a … duty … for each licensee.”
Similar challenges were filed in Milwaukee and Chicago in 2005, although no action has been taken by the FCC. The license renewal process was delayed by the challenges, but the stations are still operating.
Janice Thompson is executive director of the Money in Politics Research Action Project, which is based in Portland. It can be contacted at 917 S.W. Oak St., No. 402, Portland, OR 97205 – 503-283-1922