Friday, November 04, 2005
Chicago Media Reform Group Files Sweeping TV License Renewal Challenge
A Chicago-based volunteer media watchdog is challenging the licenses
of nine TV station's in the nation's second-largest city on the
grounds they do not give enough airtime to news about civic affairs.
Chicago Media Action said it filed its petition with the Federal
Communications Commission on Nov. 1, 2005. The complete petition is at:
BELOW is a news release provided by Steve Macek,
one of the volunteers at Chicago Media Action.
CHICAGO MEDIA REFORM GROUP FILES FCC PETITION TO DENY RENEWAL OF ALL
COMMERCIAL TV STATION LICENSES IN CHICAGO
GROUP CITES STATIONS' SYSTEMATIC FAILURE TO COVER STATE AND LOCAL
Washington, D.C., Nov. 1, 2005 -- Lawyers for media reform group Chicago
Media Action (CMA) filed a formal petition with the Federal Communication
Commission requesting that it deny the pending license renewal
applications of nine Chicago television stations. The petition charges
that the stations in question -- WBBM, WMAQ, WLS, WGN, WCIU, WFLD, WCPX,
WSNS and WPWR -- fell far short of their obligations to serve the public
interest by failing to provide adequate coverage of local and state
elections during the 2004 campaign.
Under the terms of their licenses, television broadcasters are required to
serve the public interest, convenience and necessity. Stations must renew
their licenses every eight years, at which time citizens can file
objections with the FCC. All of the television licenses in the state of
Illinois are up for renewal this year. If the FCC grants CMA's petition,
the license renewals for the nine stations would be subject to
a hearing, at least part of which would be held in or near Chicago.
Chicago Media Action's petition cites a study of locally produced news
programming conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs in
support of its claims about the lack coverage of local elections in 2004.
Based on a systematic review of all news and public affairs programming
aired by the five highest-rated stations in the Chicago media market, the
CMPA study found that just 7.8 percent of the station's newscasts during
the last month of the 2004 campaign focused on elections. Some 79
percent of that election reporting dealt exclusively with the
Presidential and Senate races. By contrast, U.S. House races accounted
for just four percent of the stations' election coverage and Illinois
House races accounted for less than one percent.
CMA's lawyer, Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Washington, DC-based public
interest law firm Media Access Project, remarked, "The FCC has repeatedly
affirmed the importance of broadcasters' service to the local community.
It's impossible to reconcile this emphasis on localism with the paucity of
local election coverage available to Chicago voters."
"These broadcasters get to use the public airwaves for free and rake in
millions of dollars every year in advertising revenue," explained CMA
board member Mitchell Szczepanczyk. "The least they can do in return is
provide us with the news and information we need as citizens. Yet
television news in Chicago consistently ignores state and local politics.
Last year, for instance, WGN-TV did not air a single story about the many
hotly contested races for the Illinois State Legislature. It's a
disgrace. They simply don't deserve to stay on the air."
The document filed by CMA was not the only complaint the FCC received this
week against Chicago's television outlets. Also on Tuesday, Third Coast
Press, a Chicago-based community newspaper and website, submitted a
"petition to deny" of its own one that challenged the license renewal
applications of the city's commercial television stations as well as
public broadcasters WTTW and WYCC on the grounds that, among other
things, the stations' news programming marginalized the voices of anti-war
activists in the lea*up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
ABOUT CHICAGO MEDIA ACTION. Chicago Media Action (CMA) is a Chicago
area-group dedicated to analyzing and broadening Chicago's major media and
to building Chicago s independent media. In 2004, CMA issued a
widely-covered study of bias on WTTW's nightly news show, "Chicago
Tonight." For more information about CMA, visit
For a copy of the CMA's petition, complete with supporting documents,
please visit www.chicagomediaaction.org/pdffiles/2005petition.pdf
Steve Macek, Ph.D.
North Central College
30 N. Brainard
Naperville, IL 60540-4690
Andrew Jay Schwartzman (President, Media Access Project)
Mitchell Szczepanczyk (Chicago Media Action)