July 26, 2012
Dear Hope Cooper,
I am following up on our complaint of May 24th regarding the imbalances we found on local Milwaukee talk radio during the Scott Walker recall campaign.
We have completed our report of all shows through May 24, the date we made the FCC complaint. The full report may be found here: http://www.mediaactioncenter.net/2012/05/scott-walker-recall-talk-radio.html#more Should the FCC need us to compile data on the remaining days of the campaign, please let me know, as we do have archives of all the programs and can provide that information if you deem it necessary.
I can say with certainty that none of our people who complained to the stations were ever granted comparable time, and the talkers on talk radio during the remainder of the campaign continued to support only one political party. Here is an article written, not by one of our members, on election day, independently supporting our data:
Our monitoring reveals that every one of the five talk show hosts showed political intent by both personally supporting GOP candidates and by having guests who supported GOP candidates on the air, while denying any access at all to supporters of Democratic candidates. Thorough data, including some on-air quotes showing political intent, are in our report, referenced above. Some hosts, however, were more egregious in their one sided use of the airwaves than others. For example, Vicki McKenna had more Republican guests on her program to support Scott Walker and GOP candidates than any of the others, routinely recruited volunteers for the GOP over the air, and mocked our effort for balance by stating on the air, “They're upset that conservative talk radio exists and conservative talk radio is out there supporting conservatives like Gov. Walker.”
I also wish to draw your attention to a relevant FCC document from 1972, (emphasis added,) found in its entirety at
In the Matter of THE HANDLING OF PUBLIC ISSUES UNDER THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST STANDARDS OF THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT
Docket No. 19260
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
36 F.C.C.2d 40
RELEASE-NUMBER: FCC 72-534
June 22, 1972 Released
Adopted June 16, 1972
31. What we were stating in Zapple was simply a common sense application of the statutory scheme. If the candidate himself appears to some significant extent (cf. gray Communications, Inc., 14 FCC 2d 766, 19 FCC 2d 532 (1968)), then the Congressional policy is clear: equal opportunities, which means no applicability of Cullman but rather mathematical precision of opportunity. Suppose neither the picture or voice of the candidate is used -- even briefly -- but rather a political message devised by him and his supporters is broadcast.
In those circumstances, a common sense view of the policy embodied in Section 315 would still call for the inapplicability of Cullman n9 and for some measure of treatment that, while not mathematically rigid, at least took on the appearance of rough comparability. If the DNC were sold time for a number of spots, it is difficult to conceive on what basis the licensee could then refuse to sell comparable time to the RNC. Or, if during a campaign the latter were given a half-hour of free time to advance its cause, could a licensee fairly reject the subsequent request of the DNC that it be given a comparable opportunity? n10 Clearly, these examples deal with exaggerated, hypothetical situations that would never arise. No licensee would try to act in such an arbitrary fashion. Thus, the Zapple ruling simply reflects the common sense of what the public interest, taking into account underlying Congressional policies in the political broadcast area, requires in campaign situations [*50] such as the above (and in view of its nature, the application of Zapple, for all practical purposes, is confined to campaign periods). Significantly, because it does take into account the policies of Section 315, the public interest here requires both more (comparable time) and less (no applicability of Cullman) than traditional fairness. n11
It is relevant to note that today, one political party getting a half an hour of time to the exclusion of the other is not an exaggerated hypothetical, but rather a commonplace occurence over our publicly owned airwaves.
This is in large part due to the public not fully understanding their rights as the owners of the airwaves. At its core, we are standing up for the First Amendment rights of the public in this unique private/public partnership of radio broadcasting. (As cited in Red Lion v FCC, "The First Amendment is relevant to public broadcasting, but it is the right if the viewing and listening public, and not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount." The broadcasters seem to think only they have rights to free speech over the microphones which influence millions. We challenge that assertion, as we believe those excluded from accessing the microphones are having their First Amendment rights denied them, especially during campaign seasons.
I understand that there are issues the FCC must consider concerning whether or not this rule about fundamental fairness during political campaigns is intact, given the demise of the Fairness Doctrine. I believe our original complaint well addressed this issue, and I believe the public interest standards of the Communications Act call for retaining this rule. However, should the FCC find itself with no rule in place, given the egregious nature of our complaint, and given that this kind of one sided radio broadcasting with clear political intent mirrors that of operators nationwide, we respectfully request a proposal for a new rule.
In coming days, we will be forwarding the FCC a petition from the public supporting this, as well as a letter of support from groups across the nation.
Media Action Center
4354 Town Center Blvd #114-110
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
cc: Mark Berlin