D.C. TV Stations Face License Challenges

Four TV stations in the Washington, D.C., market are facing challenges to their licenses based on alleged violations of federal rules on indecent content and children’s programming.

On Thursday, the Parents Television Council asked the Federal Communications Commission to refuse license renewals of the local NBC and Fox affiliates, both which are network-owned.

The PTC argued that their licenses should not be renewed until the FCC had acted on a combined 35 indecency complaints against NBC affiliate WRC-TV and Fox affiliate WTTG-TV. All complaints were filed by the PTC, a group dedicated to ridding the airwaves of programming with gratuitous sexual content.

“It is an outrage that the FCC would even consider renewing the license of two stations that have 35 pending indecency complaints,” said PTC president Brent Bozell in a statement. “How have WRC and WTTG served the public interest by airing material that many find objectionable, salacious and indecent?”

Under FCC rules, TV and radio stations are banned from airing indecent programming between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Violation can result in large fines. Cable companies and programmers are exempt from the rules.

In the WTTG complaint, the PTC pointed to an episode of the Fox program Keen Eddie, in which a prostitute is hired to arouse a horse to generate semen for the black market.

“When did content regarding masturbation of a horse become decent?” PTC said in its complaint. The show aired June 10, 2003 at 9 p.m., the PTC said.

A News Corp. spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

In the WRC complaint, PTC alleged the station violated indecency rules by airing the program Night of Too Many Stars at 8 p.m. on May 31, 2003. PTC alleged that an exchange involving the Church Lady character from Saturday Night Live and actor Macaulay Culkin about Michael Jackson’s sex habits amount to “making light of pedophilia.”

Responded WRC communications director Angela Owens: "We have not received a copy of any petition so we can't speak to specifics. That said, WRC has a long history of providing quality programming and valuable services to the D.C. community. We are proud of our contribution and believe the daily feedback we receive from viewers underscores our positive presence in the community."

On Wednesday, the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ and the Center for Digital Democracy filed to oppose the license renewal of D.C. stations WPXW-TV (owned by Paxson Communications Corp.) and WDCA-TV (a UPN affiliated owned by News Corp.).

The complaint alleged that license renewal was unjustified because the stations violated FCC rules require the broadcast of children’s education programming for at least three hours a week.

The complaint alleged that WPXW’s broadcast of the program Miracle Pets failed to met the FCC’s criteria governing educational programming. WDCA’s license renewal was opposed on the basis that the broadcast of programs Ace Lightning and Stargate Infinity lacked any educational purpose.