FCC rejects call for denial of 18 Chicago TV station licenses

The FCC’s Media Bureau has rejected a request by a newspaper to stop the license renewal of 18 major Chicago area TV stations for negligence in providing adequate public service. The agency said the claims by Third Coast Press (TCP), who brought the charges, had not provided evidence to support its claims.

TCP, known as a progressive newspaper, charged that the stations had been “systematically negligent” in serving the public interest of the Chicago market in terms of news and public affairs coverage and children’s programming. The stations, the complaint said, had engaged in “hyper commercialism.”

TCP argued that the licenses should not be granted without clearance through a process of evidentiary hearing. It said the stations have systematically engaged in policies that have brought harm to Chicago’s African-American community, the broader Arab and Muslim communities and other multiethnic communities.

The news coverage provided on Chicago TV stations, the petition added, “emphasizes the day’s police actions, crime and celebrity trivia,” while failing to cover news of key importance to the people in the viewing community.

The FCC said TCP’s petition contains “statements of opinion as opposed to the specific allegations of fact.” The complaint, the agency said, did not contain enough information to determine whether there were violations of the Children’s Television Act or the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.

As to news, the FCC cited the First Amendment, reminding the newspaper that it prohibits any FCC actions that interfere with the programming decisions of licensees.