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FCC recognizes 'widest latitude' for independence of news

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FCC recognizes 'widest latitude' for independence of news 05/18/98 WASHINGTON, D.C.--Broadcast licensees are entitled to the "widest latitude of journalistic…

FCC recognizes ‘widest latitude’ for independence of news

05/18/98

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Broadcast licensees are entitled to the “widest latitude of journalistic discretion” in presenting news and public information, the Federal Communications Commission ruled in late April, dismissing petitions to deny the license renewal of four Denver TV stations because of the “violent content” of their evening news coverage.

Claiming that the television stations suffer from “Toxic TV News Syndrome,” an organization called Rocky Mountain Media Watch said that its content analyses of news programming in several five-day segments from 1994 through February 1997 showed that between 45 and 55 percent of the news programming was devoted to stories about crime, disasters, war and terrorism.

The emphasis on violence robs the viewer of adequate news about other “vital issues such as the environment, arts, science, education, poverty, AIDS, children and local election coverage,” Media Watch told the FCC, claiming that renewal of their licenses would not serve the public interest.

The FCC said that Media Watch had failed to make its case. Both the First Amendment and the Communications Act prohibit “improper interference” with the programming decisions of licensees by the FCC, it said. Violence in television programming is a legitimate matter for public discussion, the FCC said, but discussion should take place in the Denver community, not in a license renewal action.

In denying the Media Watch petition, the commission renewed licenses for KCNC-TV, KMGH-TV, KUSA-TV and KWGN-TV. (FCC Decision letter to Dr. Paul Klite, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Media Watch)