Archive | May, 2004

Free Press Announces Sinclair Investigation

Following closely on the heels of Sinclair Broadcast Group pulling last Friday’s edition of Nightline from their ABC stations, Josh Silver of the media reform group Free Press announced an investigation into the company’s practices, vis a vis FCC policy and the law:

We intend to investigate your actions to ensure that your stations are adhering to all of the requirements outlined by the FCC for proper stewardship of the public airwaves. We intend to make certain that Sinclair’s local marketing agreements do not violate FCC rules governing concentrated ownership. Further, we intend to encourage citizens in communities with Sinclair stations to actively challenge your stations’ commitment to localism and the public interest when license renewal hearings begin in September.

Sinclair has earned the dubious distinction of being the Clear Channel of TV not just because it owns the most stations in the country, but also because of its similarly agressive tactics, push to syndicated rather than local programming, and agitiation for even greater loosening of ownership rules.

Shedding light on the activities, proclivities and cronies of the aggressive media behemoths is an absolutely necessary component of taking back our airwaves and media. I’ve been working to make my local community more aware of who our local media masters are, and I’m glad to see more of that information come to light, in addition to more people getting interested and taking action.

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San Francisco Liberation Radio Update

The folks at Liberation Radio have sent out an update giving their version of their day in court last Friday:

FCC vs. SFLR: Round One ends Inconclusively!

On Friday April 30th San Francisco Liberation Radio had our first day in court. The matter we were debating was very specific and only touched on all the deep constitutional issues which are at play, instead it focused sharply on the simple process by which the FCC gained an entry and seizure warrant.

The use of a system set in place for ships full of illegal booty at port is neither applicable to our situation, nor respecting of our rights and the Government has at least two other avenues to enforce the low power FM rules.

Our lawyer representing us to the judge, Mark Vermeulen, deftly presented
this razor thin argument while also touching on the constitutional issues to emphasize the gravity of the situation and the necessity for us to have our voices heard in court before our equipment is seized. The judge was ready to rule against us at the outset saying as much and adding that she had read everything we had filed and all the statutes and had concluded that we have no case. “Of
course it is easy to get that impression if you read the statutes…” Mr. Vermeulen started out. The argument he presented was impeccably researched (no doubt with the help of our four other lawyers
present Peter Franck, Alan Korn, Kate Alfieri, and Ben Rosenfeld), hard-hitting, and very focused while also retaining a level of humanity and real rapport with the judge.

The US Attorney, Sara
Winslow, representing the FCC was not quite as engaging or thorough. She presented her case very simply, however not so much responding to the very specific point we were raising and sticking to the
larger constitutional issues and the rights we don’t have to broadcast based on several Supreme Court cases. Our lawyer got up once more and rebutted her argument driving home the backdoor nature of the warrant the FCC got to enter and seize property from a private home.

That Judge Susan Ilston left without making a ruling after initially saying she was ready to rule against us is a minor victory and a testament to Mr. Vermeulen’s presentation; we patiently await her decision. Thanks to all who showed up!

If you’re interested in the one mainstream press view of this same event, you can read the one article filed by the AP.

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