Talk radio is not news – and Charlie Sykes is no Walter Cronkite – said a media watchdog after a talk radio station recently told the Federal Communications Commission that its local political talk radio shows are the same as “bonafide news.”
Attorneys for Journal Communications’ WTMJ-AM radio made that legal argument to the FCC in answer to a petition to deny the station’s broadcast license for violations of the FCC’s quasi-equal opportunity rule, or “Zapple Doctrine,” said Sue Wilson of Media Action Center.
Media Action Center filed a petition late in 2012 with the FCC to deny the license because, during the Scott Walker recall campaign, WTMJ’s Jeff Wagner and Charlie Sykes shows were proven to have given as much as a half a million dollars in free airtime to supporters of Republican Governor Scott Walker. The station specifically denied comparable time to supporters of his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
The FCC’s quasi-equal opportunities rule (Zapple Doctrine) states that broadcasters must give supporters of both major party candidates comparable airtime. Only “bonafide news” programs are exempt so they can cover candidates’ events in real time.
“Bonafide news programs are specifically not allowed to politic for candidates,” says Media Action Center Director Sue Wilson. “Now is our one chance to make a stand for journalism. The FCC has a duty to the public to draw a clear line between news and opinion.
“If the FCC does not draw a clear line, radio talkers like Rush Limbaugh will be equated with newsmen like Walter Cronkite, and listeners will lose any hope of ferreting out fact from fiction,” Wilson added.
Media Action Center has launched a petition for public support, “Tell the FCC: Talk Radio is NOT Bonafide News!” Find it at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/tellthe-
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