12 December 2004
License to, um, something
The United Church of Christ has filed a petition with the FCC against two Miami-area television stations, WFOR-TV and WTVJ-TV, respectively CBS and NBC owned-and-operated stations, asserting that there is reason to question whether the stations' parent companies, Viacom (for WFOR) and General Electric (for WTVJ), were operating, in the FCC's catchphrase, "in the public interest." The petition stems from the networks' refusal to run the UCC's recent ad.
Oh way to go, you idiots: just what Americans respond to best a show of theocratic muscle!
Because you know that's how people will respond to it, despite the newsertainment media's weaselly parroting of the UCC's "tolerance" jive.
Then again, this is standard operating procedure for the UCC, which was formed through the merger of two smaller denominations in 1957; by 1964, they'd already set up an Office of Communication, and challenged the license of WLBT (Jackson, Mississippi) on the basis that it was racist. The FCC held that the church had no legal standing to challenge a broadcast license; the church took them to court, and the Supreme Court eventually overruled the FCC: "The broadcast industry," wrote Chief Justice Warren Burger, "does not seem to have grasped the simple fact that a broadcast license is a public trust subject to termination for breach of duty."
Of course, the Supremes' ruling in the WLBT affair made it possible for everyone up to and including Brent Bozell's boob-counters to get into the act. And in the 1960s, Jackson had a total of two television stations. Today, with half a dozen, plus cable and the Internet, it's difficult to argue with a straight face that any media operation is actually affecting the course of public discourse, let alone dominating it. The FCC answers to Congress, not to the Executive, so the President won't be taking a broom to the place any time soon; too bad, because I'd love to see a Commission with the temerity to laugh at both the UCC's "They should be forced to take our ads" stance and Fox's upcoming reality series "America's Scariest Brazilian Waxes."
(Update, 13 December, 3:45 pm: Fixed one set of call letters see comments.)