Thursday, November 22, 2012

Licenses For WTMJ, WISN Legally Challenged

A full six months ago, I told the gentle reader about how two Milwaukee radio stations, WTMJ-AM and WISN-AM, were in violation of federal laws - namely, the Zapple Doctrine.

The Zapple Doctrine states that radio stations need to provide equal time to political candidates in the 60 day period leading up to an election.

During that 60 day period leading up to the recall election, yours truly, as well as many others, monitored the air waves. When we saw that they were violating this law, we sent emails to the general managers of each station asking them to start following the laws.

The outcomes were as one might expect from the corporate media, and were outlined in a press release from the Media Action Center, represented by Randy Bryce:
MAC said it conducted a comprehensive study in May/June of 2012 – during the Scott Walker recall campaign – which clearly showed the two stations each gave supporters of Gov. Walker and the GOP about 80 minutes of free airtime daily on their local talk radio shows, while refusing any access to supporters of Mayor Tom Barrett and Democrats whatsoever.

In total, the two stations subsidized the Walker campaign with an estimated $1 million dollars in airtime. The study documents that WISN and WTMJ hosts and guests not only exclusively promoted GOP candidates, but actively recruited volunteers for GOP campaigns over the publicly-owned airwaves, while refusing to provide any free airtime for the other side.

This, the challenge asserts, amounts to private censorship, which violates the First Amendment rights of those in the community who are denied access to the scarce publicly owned airwaves during campaigns. It further states the stations willfully have violated existing FCC rules about comparable time, citing legal opinions from the Wisconsin Broadcasters' Association.

"Broadcast stations have a unique duty to serve the entire public, especially during campaigns," explains MAC director Sue Wilson. "When a radio station uses its giant microphones to cheerlead for candidates of only one political party, no matter which political party it may be, it violates the First Amendment rights and public trust of the entire community.

"The behavior of WISN and WTMJ shows clear political intent, which violates FCC rules, as well as a lack of character to hold a broadcasting license. The FCC must not renew those licenses and should award them to new operators," Wilson said.
The FCC must rule on these challenges by December 1.

Erik Gunn, writing for Milwaukee Magazine, finds the approach novel, but does not think they have much chance for success, given that the FCC is pretty much toothless now.

The right wing response was the usual conflation, claiming that the eeeeeeeevvvvvvvullllll liberals were trying to squelch the voice of the right wing squawkers.

They might very well see it that way.

While they're trying to get people to drink the poisoned Kool Ade, they are afraid the voice of reason will drown them out.

Cross posted at Cog Dis.

No comments:

Post a Comment