FCC renews licenses for 4 Denver TV stations

Friday, May 1, 1998

The Federal Communications Commission Thursday renewed licenses for four Denver television stations dismissing a citizen media group's complaints about evening newscasts filled with violence and sex.

The FCC said the Rocky Mountain Media Watch failed to show that renewing the stations' licenses would hurt the public interest.

Regulators also cited the First Amendment, saying that “because journalistic or editorial discretion in the presentation of news and public information is the core concept of the First Amendment's free press guarantee, licensees are entitled to the widest latitude of journalistic discretion in this regard.”

The non-profit, Denver-based Rocky Mountain Media Watch group monitored news broadcasts from 1994 through 1997, devising a “mayhem index” to track the percentage of coverage time given to crime, disasters, war and terrorism on each show.

The group's report said the stations suffered from “Toxic TV News Syndrome” because more than half of their news programming contained violence and sex. The report also criticized the stations for providing limited coverage of elections, the environment, education, the arts, poverty, children and AIDS.

The four stations—KUSA (NBC affiliate), NCNC (CBS), KMGH (ABC) and KWGN (independent)—denied the group's claims.

Paul Klite, executive director of Rocky Mountain Media Watch, said he was “very disappointed that the FCC didn't acknowledge the excessive violence in TV news.”

Klite said the group may appeal the decision. In the meantime, he said, he is pleased that the effort garnered nationwide support.

“Our action has also sparked interest in other cities where people are dissatisfied with TV news, so there may be other actions in other cities,” Klite said. “A lot of people are unhappy with television news and are looking for things to do to express their discontent.”

Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, praised the FCC's decision, saying it “supports definitely the editorial freedom of broadcast journalists.”