Chicago Media Action and the Milwaukee Public Interest Media Coalition have asked the Federal Communications Commission to vacate a staff-level decision Dec. 10 that rejected its request to review the group's case against renewl of the licenses of 20 Chicago and Milwaukee TV stations.
That is according to a filing at the FCC by Media Access Project, which is representing the groups. The petition
stated that the Dec. 10 call was not the staff's to make, but had to be referred to the full commission. "[T]he staff
inexplicably ignored the clear language of the Commission's rules delegating authority to the staff and purported to
dismiss that application for review without referring it to the full Commission," which MAP and company say it can't
"This case is extraordinary in that the Commission staff had absolutely no authority to withhold the Application for
Review from the Commission or to act upon it," the petition filed Monday said. "Only the full Commission has
the power to act on an application for review from a staff action taken under delegated authority. The staff action
must be vacated.
On Dec. 10, the FCC staffers rejected its Feb. 16, 2010, application for FCC review of a 2007 Media Bureau-level decision rejecting the group's petition to deny the renewal of 19 TV stations. The FCC said the allegations raised in the Feb.16 request were new, came late, and thus were untimely and not warranting of further consideration.
MAP and company also complained Monday that the staff's failure to give any weight to its evidence that the stations
provided almost no coverage of local races in the run-up to the 2004 election was "clearly erroneus."
That evidence came from data collection by the groups and analyzed by outside "experts" that found that ‘[l]ess than
1% of newscasts was devoted to...nonfederal elections in the four weeks prior to the election...." Based on that,
they challenged the renewals, but the FCC concluded.
In the 2007 decision, the FCC had said it has "very little authority to interfere with a licensee's selection and presentation of news and editorial programming," and that it was not in the business of reviewing stations' news judgment. "The petitions have not provided evidence that the named licensees exercised their editorial discretion in bad faith," the FCC concluded, adding that "[q]uantity is not necessarily an accurate measure of the overall responsiveness of a licensee's programming. The study provided only concerns one type of programming, local election coverage just prior to the 2004 election. It does not demonstrate that television programming in Chicago or Milwaukee has generally been unresponsive."
The FCC "ignored applicable precedent, and relied on irrelevant and often obscure cases to reach its desired goal of never having to give any consideration to a detailed factual presentation painstakingly compiled by citizen
petitioners," said the MAP petition to vacate the decision. "Failure to address this case on the merits will further
diminish already weak public confidence in the Commission's regulatory process for broadcasting."
MAP said the staff "mishandled" the complaint, and wants the FCC to reverse the decision, school its staff on the
proper care and handling of the license renewal process.