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In re Applications for RENEWAL OF STANDARD BROADCAST AND TELEVISION LICENSES

 

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

 

11 F.C.C.2d 809

 

January 24, 1968

 


 

ACTION:

 

   APPLICATIONS

 

JUDGES:

 

   The Commission, by Commissioners Hyde, Chairman; Bartley, Lee, Cox, Loevinger, and Johnson, with Commissioners Cox and Johnson dissenting and issuing statements.

 

OPINION:

 

    [*809] The Commission, by Commissioners Hyde, Chairman; Bartley, Lee, Cox, Loevinger, and Johnson, with Commissioners Cox and Johnson dissenting and issuing statements, approved the staff action in reviewing the February 1, 1968, renewal group of licenses.

 


 

DISSENTBY: COX; JOHNSON

 

DISSENT:

 

DISSENTING STATEMENT OF Commissioner Kenneth a. Cox/

 

   I dissent to the renewal of the licenses of the following stations in the February 1, 1968, renewal group (Missouri and Iowa).

 

   Because they propose less than 5 percent news programming: KXEN, KATZ, KSTL, KPLR-TV, and KMBC-TV.

 

   Because they propose less than 1 percent public affairs programming: KCHR, KCFI, KFTW, KFVS, KICK, KJCF, KLID, KLTI, KSIS, KWNT, KWVY, KFVS-TV, KGLO-TV, and KUHI-TV.

 

   Because they propose less than 5 percent public affairs and "other" (religious, instructional and agricultural) programming: KDFN, KDRO, KICK, KFTW, KLID, KLWW, KMBZ, KWWL, KTRI, KXOK, KGLO-TV, and KUHI-TV.

 

   (It will be noted that some stations are included on two grounds. Some have already been renewed under staff delegations -- but with the approval of the Commission -- and others will be so renewed when other collateral matters have been resolved.)

 

   I have stated my grounds for objecting to the renewal of station licenses on these kinds of showings -- and without further inquiry -- in connection with each of the last several renewal groups, and do not desire to repeat those views here. Based on a very hurried examination of this group of renewals, I note that the lowest percentage of news programming in the whole list is proposed by KPLR-TV, one of four commercial VHF stations serving St. Louis, the country's 13th largest television market. This is not a marginal, small town, class IV AM station, but a profitable metropolitan television outlet. I think we should inquire further as to its basis for so nominal a proposal -- less than 18 minutes a day. Similarly, KMBC-TV, licensed to Metromedia, Inc., is one of only three commercial VHF stations serving Kansas City, Mo., the 23d market. It is quite profitable but proposes a minimal news service, as to which some further justification should be required. KFVS-TV [*810] (the only television station n1 in Cape Girardeau, Mo.) and KGLO-TV (the only television station in Mason City, Iowa) n2 each proposed to devote less than 1 percent of its time to programming dealing with "talks, commentaries, discussions, speeches, editorials, political programs, documentaries, forums, panels, round tables, and similar programs primarily concerning local, national, and international public affairs. " Without at least some further inquiry, I do not see how the Commission can find that this will adequately serve the needs of the television audiences in these two communities. This apparent deficiency on the part of KGLO-TV carries over into the broader classification of public affairs and "other" programming.

 

   n1 Its AM affiliate, KFVS, which is the only one of Cape Girardeau's three AM stations licensed to operate full time, falls in the same category.

 

   n2 The same is true of KUHI-TV in Joplin, Mo. However, it is a new UHF station which went on the air Sept. 2, 1967, in competition with an established VHF facility, so that some allowance can be made for it at this time.

 

   I am sure there are other glaring cases here -- one-station communities, or instances where the dominant station provides the least in these important, but less profitable, program areas. But as a matter of processing, I think all of these stations should have been queried as to their program proposals. Some of them may have valid explanations, but I doubt if all of them do. The majority's continuing acquiescence in this sort of thing does not serve the public interest -- in fact, I don't think it even serves the long-range best interests of the broadcasting industry.

 


 

DISSENTING OPINION OF COMMISSIONER NICHOLAS JOHNSON

 

   February 1, 1968, is renewal day for all Iowa and Missouri broadcasters. At that time the Federal Communications Commission will complete its triennial ritual in which licenses for broadcast outlets in those two States will be, after due investigation by the Commission, renewed for another 3 years to "serve the public interest." I object to the Commission's virtually complete lack of concern for the programming performance and proposals of licensed stations.

 

   Today we the Commissioners "note" that the staff has completed its processing of the renewal applications, though doing little more than nod to the sketchy memoranda as they pass our desks. As is always the case, this processing has required the expenditure of considerable resources -- time, talent, and money -- principally by those outside the Commission; sadly, no one but members of Washington, D.C.'s Federal Communications Bar can be said to have profited in any sense from this exercise -- certainly not the public or the broadcasters involved.

 

   The airwaves are public property. A frequency assignment is not "owned" -- it is licensed from the public, like public lands. A broadcasting license is a trusteeship, equivalent to the position held by an elected official. His "election" occurs every 3 years, when the FCC hears from his local "constituency " whether they wish to continue him "in office" for another 3 years. Unfortunately, most listeners and viewers are never heard from -- indeed they probably are unaware of their rights. The televisions industry earns approximately a 100-percent return on depreciated tangible investment each year -- for delivering [*811] up listeners and viewers to advertisers' messages on its monopolistic facility. (Which means that, in addition to the public's $20 billion investment in receiving equipment it also pays the $3 billion a year in advertised product costs to provide the "free" radio and television service it receives.) In return for this profitable use of public property broadcasters owe the public who has elected them more than national spot advertising, "rip and read" wire service news, network entertainment shows, and old movies. For programming lies at the heart of all that is broadcasting and service to "the public interest."

 

   The Commission's rules require licensees to submit extensive data about the kinds of programming they have and intend to broadcast over their frequencies. These submissions are "processed" in a physical sense. But scant attention is paid to their content.

 

   Most of the broadcasts of Iowa and Missouri -- as throughout America take their responsibility seriously. They are, perhaps, the ones hurt worst of all by our lackadaisical winking at their less conscientious colleagues.

 

   In the present case, for example, three of the 165 standard broadcast stations and two of the 29 television stations on which the staff has completed processing propose to devote less than 5 percent of their time to news in the weekly menu for the consumers of their programming; 10 of the radio broadcasters and two of the television broadcasters propose less than 1 percent public affairs programming. The Commission has solemnly found all to be serving the public interest, and is renewing their licenses.

 

   For this Commission to sanction such cynical squandering of the valuable largess it dispenses is a shameful fraud on the public. As I emphasized on a similar occasion 1 year ago:

 

   "* * * Millions of Americans are reassured in the belief that there is an FCC in Washington, reassured in the assumption that the Federal Government is insisting that the public's airwaves be operated in the public interest. The point is that, through inaction, the Government enables the occasional irresponsible broadcaster to walk the streets of his community with head high. Each licensee can be self-confident in the satisfaction that on his studio wall hang, side by side, two framed imprimaturs: The Seal of Good Practice of his industry association, and a license from his Federal Government." Renewal of Standard Broadcast Station Licenses, 7 FCC 2d 122, 132-33 (1967). See also my statements dissenting to the renewal of broadcast licenses in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, FCC Public Notice 0986, May 26, 1967, and in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, 10 P and F Radio Reg. 2d 944, 946 (1967).

 

   I retain my hope that the unrepresented American viewer may someday be told of his rights, and rise up and demand better service from his representatives, the seven men who man this Commission. Until that day I shall continue to dissent to this Commission's indifference to his interests, which our commission of office obligates us to safeguard.

 


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