And the final result of the CMA Petition to Deny is...

Posted by Mitchell - June 13, 2007 (entry 546)

We saw this coming for a while, and are quite surprised at the timing of this (we were expecting this after about a year, but it took a year-and-a-half).

But this afternoon, we got the official word of the ruling of the groundbreaking CMA's petition to deny filed back in November 2005. The Federal Communications Commission rejected CMA's petition.

Much more, including an official statement by CMA is forthcoming. Here is CMA's statement about the rejection.

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Analysis: The key paragraph in the ruling reads as follows:

"The petitions have not provided evidence that the named licensees exercised their editorial discretion in bad faith. Quantity is not necessarily an accurate measure of the overall responsiveness of a licensee’s programming. The study provided only concerns one type of programming, local election coverage just prior to the 2004 election. It does not demonstrate that television programming in Chicago or Milwaukee has generally been unresponsive. The Commission, however, currently has pending a rulemaking seeking to standardize and enhance television broadcasters’ public interest disclosure requirements. In initiating this rulemaking, the Commission has sought, in part, to promote discussions between the licensee and its community about how best to meet the local public interest obligations of the community a broadcaster serves. In the meantime, we urge all viewers and listeners, including such organizations as CMA and MPIMC, to raise their programming concerns directly with their local broadcasters."

It seems there's this operational standard of "bad faith" that's at key here. One definition of "bad faith" calls "bad faith" "[an] intentional dishonest act by not fulfilling legal or contractual obligations, misleading another, entering into an agreement without the intention or means to fulfill it, or violating basic standards of honesty in dealing with others."

What legal obligations would there be? To serve the public interest, convenience and necessity. But how is that defined? It's not, and hasn't been.

One idea for future action would be to define such a standard (Anyone interested in taking this on as a project? Contact us.). That way, the FCC or anyone can't arbitrarily move the goalposts in any action, license challenge or otherwise, concerning the public interest. Some formal policy recommendations, like an updated version of the old FCC Blue Book could help as well.

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