Rove Scolded by Religious-TV-Station Leaders

A group of religious broadcasters Monday sent White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove a strongly worded letter to complain that Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin “was forced to pull multicast must carry” from the agency’s June 21 public meeting.

The letter, signed by 16 religious broadcasting executives, argued in a scolding tone that Martin’s inability to line up a majority at an agency controlled by Bush appointees was indicative of ongoing White House “indifference” toward providers of “local quality, family-friendly programming that is both faith-based and community oriented.”

Martin wanted the FCC to adopt rules that would have allowed TV stations to demand cable carriage of every free programming service that they can fit into their digital spectrum. Broadcasters insist that multicast must carry is essential in order to remain competitive in market that offers consumers hundreds of channels of programming. The GOP has held a 3-2 majority at the FCC since the June 1 arrival of Robert McDowell.

“Lest we sound like ‘angry’ religious broadcasters, let us assure you we are nothing of the kind,” the letter said. “We are, however, deeply frustrated with the indifference that this Administration and Congress [have] shown to us which has and will continue to lead to the devaluation of what we do.”

The letter praised Martin for endorsing multicast must carry.

“One bright spot in our efforts has been FCC chairman Kevin Martin. The chairman has been a long time supporter of securing a place for religious, minority, small and independent voices in the media landscape,” the letter said.

Among those who signed the letter were Daystar TV Network president Marcus Lamb, Trinity Broadcasting Network vice president Paul Crouch Jr., and Living Faith Television president and CEO Mike Smith.

The letter was sent apparently because the religious broadcasters failed to secure a face-to-face meeting with Rove and other White House officials.

“We are disheartened by the lack of support or outright opposition we have experienced with the administration and congressional leadership, stands taken without extending our group the courtesy of a meeting as evidenced by several declinations by you and the White House,” the letter said.