KUSI Vows to Fight 'Fine-Crazy' FCC

KUSI-TV San Diego owner Michael McKinnon vowed to fight the Federal Communications Commission's proposed fine of his station for not closed-captioning all of its coverage of the 2003 fires that devastated his market.

"Hell, yes," he told B&C. "I think the FCC has gone crazy with fines thinking this is their sole purpose in life."

KFMB San Diego is also taking issue with the decision.

The FCC fined three stations Wednesday for not sufficiently alerting the hearing-impaired community of the fires, the first-ever such fines. "People with hearing disabilities have a right to the same timely emergency information as stations provide to their hearing audiences," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in announcing the fines. "The Commission remains committed to strong enforcement in this critical area.”

McKinnon says the station was able to caption 80%-90% of its three days of wall to firewall reporting. "The complaint was that we didn't totally closed-caption? We were happy to see the reporters get out alive."

McKinnon points out that the station was understaffed as it was, with half of his employees at home trying to save their property, including the GM, who was on his roof with a hose. "This was a disaster, not an inconvenience," he said. Closed-captioning requirements don't kick in fully until 2006, he said, "and we are working toward that."

In a statement, KFMB President Ed Trimble said the station was "extremely disappointed in the decision," pointing out that it had received numerous awards for its coverage. He was not available to comment on whether the station would also challenge.

KGTV San Diego, the third station, had not returned a call at press time.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.