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Fox Calls License Challenges 'Meritless'

Fox Television Stations has asked the Federal Communications Comission to reject two license challenges to its owned stations in the Washington, D.C., market: WTTG-TV and its UPN affiliate, WDCA-TV.

In filings with the commission, Fox tells the FCC it should immediately renew its license for WTTG-TV and reject the challenge by Parent's Television Council, which alleged indecent content on the station.

Fox gives three reasons: PTC, it argues, has not demonstrated it has standing to object to a renewal application; 2) Fox says it has shown the indecency complaint--about an episode of Keen Eddie on black market traffic in horse semen and other programs--is "entirely without merit"; and 3) delaying the renewal would prejudice WTTG, which it argues has a "superlative record of serving its local community."

Fox points out that it has received no letter of inquiry from the FCC on any of the complaints, and that the commission should not "delay the grant of WTTG-TV's renewal on the basis of alleged complaints about which FTS has not even been made aware."

In calling for immediate renewal, Fox argued that the challenge to WDCA-TV over two of its children's programs--United Church of Christ (UCC) and Center For Digital Democracy (CDD) argued they weren't FCC-friendly--was also without merit. It said it has been airing five hours per week of core educational programming (the FCC asks for three), and that it has been designed both to educate and attract an audience.

Both challenged shows--Ace Lightning, Stargate Infinity, distributed by DIC Entertainment--"have complied fully with the Children's Television Act and commissioner rules," the latter which they argue have provided licensees "broad discretion to select the educational programming for their communities."

Fox says that because the UCC and CDD take issue with the depiction of conflict and violence in the shows, it should not be allowed to use WDCA's license renewal "as an opportunity to conduct a wholesale re-write of the children's television rules." Fox, WDCA-TV, DIC and the kids TV academician that consulted on the shows, all argue that "the responsible portrayal of violence and conflict can teach children valuable lessons."  Choosing such shows, they argue, is within the reasonable discretion of the licensee.

WTTG and WDCA are among 50 licenses in four states that did not get the green light on their Oct. 1 renewal date, most due to pending indecency complaints and a handful of license challenges. The majority are expected to be cleared up fairly quickly, but others could be held up for months.