The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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.

Andrea Harris is not impressed:

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.)

Posted at 11:06 AM to Immaterial Witness , Overmodulation


<pedant>

The Christian Post goofed on the call sign for Channel 6 (NBC); it's WTVJ.

WTVJ used to be channel 4, until the big Miami channel shuffle 10-15 years ago. Channel 6 used to be WCIX, the Fox affiliate, and Channel 7 was the NBC station. Then CBS bought channel 6 and made it the CBS affiliate for a while (and channel 4 became the NBC channel for while, while 7 became the Fox station). I'm not sure when 4 and 6 swapped affiliation, but I'm pretty sure that is when the WTVJ name moved to channel 6. Throughout all this, channel 10 was (and remains) the ABC station.

</pedant>

Probably MUCH more than you ever cared to know, but I can be anal-retentive about that sort of thing, and I was a TV junkie as a child.

Posted by: timekeeper at 4:52 PM on 12 December 2004

It's not the first time there have been wholesale overhauls in a market's network affiliations; I seem to recall that around 1970 all three stations in Spokane played Musical Affiliates.

I should have caught the Miami calls, though. I think what prompted the original switch was the GE acquisition of RCA and therefore NBC; GE did own some stations beforehand, and when they discovered they owned a CBS station, they were keen to swap. (Similarly, Group W owned NBC stations in Boston and Philadelphia, which perforce switched when Westinghouse bought CBS.)

And here's an oddity for you: the station formerly owned by our local school board — it went on the air in the Fifties with in-classroom programming — is currently a Fox affiliate. With the same calls, yet.

Posted by: CGHill at 5:08 PM on 12 December 2004