Radioshow Headlines for 12-17-04

These are the news headlines as read on the Dec. 17, 2004 edition of the mediageek radioshow: Media Groups Challenging Sinclair; FCC Says Satellite Radio Can’t Be Indecent; Limbaugh Pursued over “Dick”.

Media Groups Challenging Sinclair
On Dec. 14, a coalition of media and activist organizations, including and Media Matters for America, launched a protest campaign against Sinclair Broadcasting. They’re pressuring Sinclair’s advertisers with letters complaining of the TV station owner’s partisan leanings, evident in programs like vice president Mark Hyman’s nightly conservative commentary, The Point.

In response to this campaign, Hyman told Broadcasting and Cable magazine, “As soon as allows me to use their e-mail lists and post to their Web site, maybe then we will have a conversation.”

Siclair is the largest owner of TV stations in the nation, and created a stir back in October when it announced plans to air a documentary critical of former presidential candidate John Kerry.

Perhaps Hyman believes he is proposing an equal exchange, however the truth is different. In fact, while can claim legitimate ownership of its website and email list, Sinclair does not actually own the airwaves it uses to broadcast its TV stations. SinclairÂ’s license to broadcast is granted provisionally, and for free, by the FCC.

Even though it is practically toothless and devoid of enforcement, the Telecommunications Act still requires that broadcasters serve, “the public interest, convenience, and necessity,” in exchange for using the public airwaves. That means that as a television broadcast license holder Sinclair has obligations beyond its narrow self-interest.

FCC Says Satellite Radio CanÂ’t Be Indecent
The FCC declined to open a proceeding to explore the question of whether or not indecency regulation should apply to satellite radio. This rulemaking was requested by Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters, Inc, a California based owner of traditional broadcast radio stations. In his one-page decision, Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree told Mt. Wilson that the agency had previously ruled that, “subscription-based services do not call into play the issue of indecency.”

Further, Ferree explained, “Consistent with existing case law, the [FCC] does not impose regulations regarding indecency on services lacking the indiscriminate access to children that characterizes broadcasting.”

Mt. Wilson asked the FCC for the rulemaking in response to Howard SternÂ’s decision to join Sirius Satellite Radio. Stern decided to leave terrestrial radio for satellite in part due to the sheer number of indecency fines his syndicated morning radio show has received.
This decision is seen as a reassuring sign for subscription television, too, since some lawmakers have recently made noises about having indecency rules apply to cable and satellite TV.

Limbaugh Pursued over “Dick”
Speaking of indecency, some liberal-leaning bloggers have started a campaign targeting Rush Limbaugh for his use of a four-letter word starting with “d,” to mean penis, on his Dec. 13 program. The bloggers, led by Oliver Willis at, are encouraging listeners to send indecency complaints to the FCC for Rush’s use of the word in his program that airs during the afternoon in most markets – the time during which the FCC bans indecent language.

The FCC is required to evaluate all indecency complaints, regardless of how many complaints are filed for a particular program. In fact, the precedent setting FCC v Pacifica case, which clarified and solidified the FCCÂ’s ability to regulate indecent programming, was triggered by just one letter to the FCC.

Being able to provide more information about the program in question, such as a transcript, increases the likelihood that the Commission will seriously investigate the complaint. The bloggers targeting Limbaugh have published a transcript of RushÂ’s potentially dirty word, making it more certain that the FCC will have to give their complaints due consideration.

Unfortunately, Limbaugh was not available for comment.