Smith Challenges Emmis Consent Decree

Attorney David Smith, whose raft of indecency complaints at the Federal Communications Commission (70 in all) against Emmis Communications Corp.'s WKQX radio station in Illinois helped to prompt that company to settle all of its complaints for $300,000, is complaining to the FCC again, this time about the Aug. 12 settlement.

Smith and others argue that the FCC is effectively selling a license renewal. "The FCC doesn't have the authority to broker deals," he told B&C.

In a story B&C was tipped to by a piece in Robert Feder's Chicago Sun-Times column, Smith, who is now a policy analyst for the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), is telling the commission it didn't have the authority to settle the complaints. IFI is a pro-"decency," anti-gay marriage group.

Smith's attorney filed the complaint Monday. In it, Smith, joined by IFI , Concerned Women for America of Illinois, and Julie Cordry, who filed indecency complaints against Emmis' KPNT St. Louis, argue that "the commission has no authority to sell a renewal of license to a party such as Emmis, nor does it have any authority to sell a party a finding of basic character qualifications."

"The complaints filed by Dave and Julie represent serious and egregious violations of broadcast law," said IFI executive director Peter LaBarbera. "The broadcast of sexually explicit material is illegal,he says, "and Emmis should face the full statutory penalties for breaching federal broadcasting law - which they did time and again. This consent decree in effect purchases the Commission's selective amnesia, as it would ignore significant portions of Emmis' record. As a result, the FCC would be free to quickly and without qualm, renew licenses for Emmis' stations. That is not acceptable."

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.