Media Action Center is a group of of concerned residents throughout the U.S. led by former Emmy-winning broadcaster turned media reformer Sue Wilson. We have successfully influenced policy at the Federal Communications Commission and at local TV and Radio stations throughout the country for more than a decade to ensure We the People are truly served by the publicly owned airwaves. (See the archive of our work under "older posts.") We successfully forced Entercom to give up its $13.5 million license to KDND for killing a woman in a radio water drinking stunt. We have a long-running action to label Alex Jones' radio show as the fiction it is, which has taken Jones' program off dozens of radio stations nationwide. We educated the Supreme Court in FCC v Prometheus Radio on critical information to #SaveLocalNews.

Please see MAC's 2018 Comment to the FCC (below) to learn why these actions are crucial to Democracy. Find full journalistic coverage of the Supreme Court case and our Amicus brief, Sinclair Broadcasting's shell game, Alex Jones, the Strange v Entercom trial and other public interest media issues at For background on how we arrived in this era of disinformation and what to do about it, see Wilson's 2009 documentary Broadcast Blues.

FCC: Radio Hosts May Lie to the Public

On March 10, 2012, Sacramento Media Group member Roger Smith complained to the FCC about the one-sided political talk radio radio on Sacramento's airwaves. He received the following reply from Mark Berlin of the FCC's political division.   Takeaway:  Radio hosts are free to lie to us on our publicly owned airwaves.

This is with respect to your March 10 complaint to the FCC regarding stations KFBK, KSTE, and KGBY, all of which, you state, are licensed to Clear Channel Corp.  You state that each of them will be broadcasting more than nine hours a day of pro-Republican, Democrat-bashing programs, and you feel that this one-sided programming is not in the public interest.

Before I respond to the substance of your complaint, I want to indicate that we have searched our records, and there is no station KGBY that is currently licensed.  It may have been a previous call sign of a station that has since been changed.  Also, Station KFBY-FM in Sacramento and Station KSTE(AM) in Rancho Cordova are not licensed to Clear Channel but, rather, to AMFM Broadcasting Licenses, LLC.

Although the FCC licenses broadcast stations, we have virtually no control over the content of what is aired.  That’s because broadcast stations enjoy freedom of speech under the First Amendment, and the FCC is prohibited by statute from censoring or dictating program content.  The result is that stations are free to air pretty much whatever they want (short of obscenity or indecency) – even if the material is false, misleading, or slanted.  The equal time rule would not apply here, since it pertains only to the voices or photo images of candidates on the air (not discussion by other persons) and, even then, in very limited situations, such as paid political announcements.  If these stations want to air programming that is heavily pro-Republican in its views, they are entitled to do so, and they need not provide any programming with other views.  At one time we did have a policy – the Fairness Doctrine – that would have mandated more even-handed programming, but that has not been enforced since 1987.

That does not mean that members of the listening public are totally without recourse.  We have found that stations are sensitive to public opinion.  If enough people complain about a station’s programming – and particularly if they are part of an organized boycott of station advertisers – the station could very well change its programming policy.

Mark Berlin
Policy Division (political office)
Media Bureau