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FCC: 'Crime Watch Daily' Is News Show

Warner Bros. afternoon strip Crime Watch Daily (from GHN Productions) has pledged to bring something new to daytime TV, and thanks to an FCC ruling Tuesday, it will be able to do that without having to offer up airtime to candidates for political office.

GHN sought a declaratory ruling that the show was a bona fide newscast. That is because if it was not a bona fide news program, it would have to offer an equal opportunity for airtime to candidates running against the "judges, sheriffs and district attorneys" or other potential candidates the show might feature in coverage of trials, cases and other "crime-related" matters.

"Based on the record before us," said Media Bureau assistant chief of the policy division Robert Baker, "we conclude that Crime Watch Daily does qualify as a bona fide newscast because it reports news of some area of current events, in a manner similar to more traditional newscasts. In addition, we have no evidence before us of bad faith or unreasonableness on the part of GNH. Therefore, appearances by candidates on Crime Watch Daily are exempt from the equal opportunities requirements..."

As the FCC said in ruling syndicated staple Entertainment Tonight a bona fide news program back in 1988, the FCC's role "is not to decide, by some qualitative analysis, whether one kind of news story is more bona fide than another," but rather that the show have news value and "not be designed to serve the political advantage of any particular candidacy."

But that ruling does not get stations off the hook from exercising independent judgment. "The licensees of the stations on which the subject program airs remain ultimately responsible for a determination to air a particular program and should not do so for the political advantage of a candidate for public office," the FCC said.

The series debuts Sept. 14.