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FCC denies election challenges to local stations

A total of 19 television stations in Chicago and Milwaukee won an FCC appeal after consumer activists challenged their lack of election coverage.

The FCC again turned down challenges to the stations’ licenses filed by two public interest groups — Chicago Media Action (CMA) and the Milwaukee Public Interest Media Coalition (MPIMC) — who had appealed an earlier decision not to deny license renewals of these stations.

The FCC found the group’s complaint did not prove “bad faith” or that TV programming in Chicago and Milwaukee has “generally been unresponsive” to the public interest. Ars Technica, the Web site, reported that the commission’s position indicated that it is difficult, if not impossible, to apply public interest pressure to TV stations via the current FCC’s license renewal process.

The complaint centered on the 2004 election campaign and included a survey showing that five of the stations’ newscasts devoted less than 1 percent of their stories to non-federal elections in the last four weeks before Election Day in November.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) 2004 Campaign News Study in Chicago, Milwaukee and Portland Markets showed that in Chicago most coverage went to the presidential race and the senate campaigns, and most of that went to strategic and “horse race” style coverage.