FCC Upholds Foreign-Langauge Fine

The FCC says strict underwriting rules for noncommercial stations do not discriminate against foreign language outlets. The commission Thursday upheld a $10,000 fine against KMTP-TV, a foreign language noncommercial station in San Francisco, for airing ads for State Farm, Met Life, and several local retailers. The fine was first proposed by the Enforcement Bureau in 2002. KMTP’s owner, Minority Television Project, has been appealing the ruling since, first at the bureau level and then to the full commission. The violations occurred a whopping 1,900 times between June 1999 and 2002 and drew complaints from the local AT&T cable franchise and KTSF(TV), a local commercial station. Noncommercial stations are permitted to identify underwriters with on-air acknowledgments but may not promote contributors' products and services. One KMTP announcement, for instance, promoted a frequent flier mileage plan for an Asiana Airlines and described the carrier as 'the best airline in the world.'  KMTP defended most of the announcements on the grounds that creating 'value-neutral' acknowledgments is a 'daunting challenge' when the languages at issue -- Vietnamese, Mandarin, Filipino and Korean -- do not always 'yield precise cross-cultural verbal equivalencies in English.' KMTP also disagreed with translations of the announcements provided by the complainants. But the FCC found KMTP's own translations exceeded permissible boundaries and dismissed the station’s argument that strict underwriting rules discriminated against foreign language stations.