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FCC Rejects Long-Standing Petition to Deny KIRO Renewal

The FCC has rejected a petition to deny the
challenge to the license renewal of CBS affiliate KIRO Seattle from a viewer
unhappy with CBS' network news programming.

What essentially
amounted to a nuisance petition had been filed in 2006, but it was only on July
29 of last month that the Media Bureau ruled that there was no legal basis for
the complaint.

The petitioner had
complained that CBS News amounted to propaganda, and was biased and unfair.

The FCC in finally
denying the complaint pointed out that there was no federal law that requires
broadcasters to present contrasting viewpoints and that even if the assertions
about the newscast were true, there was no basis in law for granting the
petition or designating the license for hearing.

"While viewers
may disagree with a broadcaster's choice in programming, broadcasters are
afforded wide discretion in choosing their programming," the bureau said.
"[T]he Commission is generally prohibited from involving itself in the
content of specific programs or otherwise engaging in activities that might be
regarded as program censorship." The generally qualifier is necessary
because the FCC does involve itself in content when it cites a station for
indecency or profanity.

One thing that could
have held up the decision in this case, at least until 2011, is that while
there was no federal law, there was the FCC's Fairness Doctrine. That doctrine
required broadcasters to seek out opposing viewpoints on controversial issues.
It was essentially abandoned by the FCC as a policy back in 1987, but remained
technically still on the books until it was removed after former FCC
Commissioner Robert McDowell pointed out it was still an FCC rule. But that was
still almost two years ago.