You can BOYCOTT Disney and all Disney subsidiaries. You can write letters to the editor. You can sell any Disney stock you own. You can cease taping any ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel, Lifetime, E!, History Channel, Biography Channel, A&E, SOAPNet, JETIX, and Style tv shows with your DVR (yes, Disney owns, either wholly or partially, all of those TV channel brands). You can do all these things and more.
One other thing you can do is protest the renewal of your local ABC affiliate's broadcasting license. This diary is all about that process, what it entails, how to do it right (I hope), and whatever else you might need to know.
First, you need to understand that the chances of succeeding in this are very small. Even a massively organized effort is unlikely to succeed. But it is something you can do and a large number of petitions against renewal is news in and of itself. And it makes the execs sweat and the stockholders nervous because losing a station license is like getting Ebola: it's basically a death sentence. Besides, to corrupt the New York Lotto slogan, "all you need is a petition and a dream!"
So let's begin. This is a list of the ABC stations that are directly owned and operated by ABC and when their licenses expire. Note, some dates have come and gone. This means the license is being considered for renewal as we... speak? communicate? I dunno. More on that below.
|City||Station||License Expiration Date|
|Los Angeles, CA||KABC||12-01-2006|
|WABC||New York City, NY||06-01-2007|
|San Francisco, CA||KGO||12-01-2006|
Now many, many of you are not covered by that list. You might wish to find out your local ABC affiliate's info. Here's how to find out when your affiliate's license expires.
1. Go to http://www.fcc.gov/fcc-bin/audio/tvq.html.
2. In the box labelled "Call Sign" enter your local ABC affiliate's call sign. If you live in the New York metro area, it'd be WABC. If you live in New Hampshire (like I once did) you'd enter WMUR. If you live in Portland, OR, it'd be KATU. Etc.
3. Scroll down the page to the selector box labelled "Output -- Select TV Query or TV List". In the selector box, click on TV Query (detailed output + CDBS links).
4. Click on "Submit Query" at the bottom of the page.
5. When the results come back, scroll down just a little until you see a link for "Station Info". Click that link.
6. When that page loads, you will see a link "Click for Details". Click it.
7. On this page is a table of information. One of those items is "Lic Expir:". That contains the date that your station's license expires. If you've been following through with WMUR you'd discover that it's 04-01-2007. If you've been doing KATU, you'd now know that it's 02-01-2007.
For some of you, (e.g. those of you in Chicago, Flint, and Toledo), you'll be scratching your head because that date has come and gone. What this means is that your station's license is currently in the renewal process and has not yet been renewed. The station receives a temporary license while the FCC is considering whether or not to renew the license. This process takes a little while. For instance. WTVD (above) last filed for renewal on July 30, 2004. Their application for renewal was accepted on August 10, 2004. Their renewal was granted on February 10, 2005. WABC last filed for renewal on January 29, 1999. Their renewal wasn't granted until July 15, 1999. Additionally, the FCC is swamped with new applications related to the switch over to Digital TV. So the renewal process takes a long time.
Anyway, congratulations. You now know when your ABC affiliate's broadcasting license is set to expire. So what now?
Public Participation in Licensing Process.
Renewal Applications. You can file a formal protest against a station by filing a formal petition to deny its renewal application, or by sending us an informal objection to the application. You must file a petition to deny the application by the end of the first day of the last full calendar month of the expiring license term. (For example, if the license expires on December 31, you have to file your petition by the end of the day on December 1). Before you file a petition to deny an application, you should check our rules and policies, to make sure that the petition complies with our procedural requirements. Before their licenses expire, stations have to broadcast announcements giving the date the license will expire, the date on which a renewal application must be filed, and the date by which formal petitions against it must be filed. You can file an informal objection at any point until we either grant or deny the application.
Some of you (e.g. those of you in Raleigh-Durham, NC) have a long time to wait. Others have missed the chance to file a formal petition to deny renewal (e.g. those of you in Chicago, Flint, and Toledo) but can still file an informal objection to renewal. The many of the rest of you (and this includes me as a WABCer) have to bide your time and watch the calendar carefully. The final lucky ones are in the process right now. This includes all of you in California.
How do I know this? They actually do renewals based on the state in which your station is located. This page here has a chart on it telling you when your station's most recent application and expiration dates were or will be. But the process outlined above for looking up your station info is important because it gives you access to info you will need to file a petition or objection. (And I didn't discover that page until later in my research after I wrote the instructions above. C'est la vie.)
But you probably are wondering: what's the difference between a formal petition and an informal objection?
A formal petition is a sort of official objection with legal implications etc. An informal objection is something they pay attention to but does not have the formality and legal implications (e.g. the potential for a hearing, etc.) that a formal petition does. Sorry I don't have a better answer. They don't have one at all so this is the best I could come up with.
So how do I file an informal objection? How do I file a formal petition?
Let's find out. The FCC's official outline of the process is available here: http://www.fcc.gov/localism/renew_process_handout.pdf (also available here http://www.fcc.gov/localism/renew_process_handout.doc as a DOC file). I'd strongly suggest reading it before filing anything, but I'll give you the general breakdown of what it says here. Just don't blame me if my summary is incomplete, inaccurate, or in any other way wrong. It is up to you to do this correctly. I'm merely providing this information for educational purposes.
First, your station is required to file it's renewal application four months before its license is set to expire. To find out if your station has filed its license renewal yet, follow the instructions above up through step 4. Then follow these steps:
5. When the results come back, scroll down just a little until you see a link for "Application List". Click that link.
6. You may get a page entitled "Application Search Warning". If you do, just click the "Get Data" button on that page. For those of you who don't, ignore this step.
7. We should all be at the same point now. You'll see a grey table on the page. On the far left side is a column called "File Number". You want to ignore the numbers part of this. Instead, look in the letters section for the most recent file that begins with the letters "BRCT". This is the renewal application.
8. Follow the row over to the right and check the date. If it is very recent, then the application has been filed. Feel free to click on either the "Info" or the "Application" links to view. The "Info" link is dull but the "Application" can provide some interesting info. They are required to include in their application all letters of complaint about "violent" programming, for instance, as an exhibit.
But getting back to business, once your station has filed it's renewal application, you can submit an informal objection at anytime until the renewal has been granted. The format and info needed will be given below.
As to a formal petition, once your station has filed it's renewal, you have until one month before its license is set to expire to file a formal petition. So if the license is set to expire on 12-01-2006 (e.g. Californian TV stations) then you have until 11-01-2006 to file a formal petition. But you CANNOT file a formal petition until the application to renew has been sent in so make sure you don't send them too early either. Check to make sure the application for renewal has been submitted first.
Ok. I'm gonna go with an informal petition. What now?
You need to write a letter to the FCC. But not just any letter. Your letter should be in business format, written respectfully, and must meet certain requirements.
First, this letter must be a paper letter signed by you. Emails don't count nor do faxes.
You should include a subject line that states that this is an informal objection to the renewal of the license of A, B, C whose facility ID number is D. The license renewal application file number is E.
- A is the station's call sign, e.g. WABC, KGO, etc.
- B is the city in which the station is located (not where you live).
- C is the state in which the station is located.
- D is the facility ID number.
- E is the renewal application file number.
You might be wondering how to get all this crazy information. Go back above to where we went through the steps of how to find out if your station has filed its renewal application. Remember at the end I told you you could click on the "Info" link but it was kinda pointless? I lied. This link contains all of the information you need for your subject line.
You will need to allege a violation of the FCC laws or regulations and give sufficient information to establish that the violation did indeed occur. Also, it will not be considered unless it is timely (i.e. received before a decision is made on the station's renewal application).
When sending this using regular mail, send it to:
Office of the Secretary
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
ATTN: Video Division, License Renewal Processing Team
When sending by messenger, hand delivering, or anything else (e.g. UPS, Fed-Ex), use this address:
Office of the Secretary
Federal Communications Commission
c/o Natek, Inc.
236 Massachusetts Ave., N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
ATTN: Video Division, License Renewal Processing Team
Additionally, you should only file petitions to deny for your local ABC station. You really don't have standing to complain about another station though it is unclear whether or not complaints about a different station than your local one would be ignored or returned. You should also give reasons why you have an interest in this station's renewal application.
Finally, you MUST include both the signed original and two copies. Yep. The classic "filled out in triplicate" does still exist. (Note: The unofficial regs seem to say that you do not need to do this, that only the original is fine. I would recommend sending the original and two copies however just in case. They couldn't deny you for sending too many copies, after all. Especially not when it is their own website that instructs you to do so.)
I think I want to file a formal petition. What now?
Contact a lawyer with media law experience. Or contact some large organization that might be able to help you. Seriously. I don't mean to be dismissive here. In fact I encourage you to pursue and look into doing this. But this is a much more formal and legal type of complaint and the requirements are much more complex.
As an alternative, consider trying to get your local or state DNC party involved or your local congress critter or senator. The more clout the objector has, the more effective the application is likely to be. And such people are much more likely to meet the standing requirements, etc., for a formal petition.
If you're not willing to invest the time and money in getting professional help to do this, then you really should consider urging a local progressive organization or public official to do this and file an informal objection personally.
So what FCC laws or regulations might this broadcast violate?
It's all speculation at this point because it hasn't aired yet. (Ed. Note: it has now aired and it was both dreadfully boring and dreadfully misleading and possibly slanderous). The most basic argument is something like this:
On September 10th and 11th 2006, (fill in the blank) broadcast a program entitled "The Path to 9/11" from 8PM to 10PM EDT. (Fill in the blank) now is applying for renewal of its station license. I am writing to object to that renewal.
The public interest would not be served by the renewal of (fill in the blank)'s license because their programming decisions have been contrary to the public interest in knowing and understanding the causes and failures that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks and being fully and truthfully educated about what really happened.
Their broadcast of the program "The Path to 9/11" in which falsehoods and mistruths were presented in the format normally associated with a factual documentary and their advertisement of that program as being based on the 9/11 Commission's Report when in fact many parts of the program contradicted the findings in that report constitutes a grave breech of the public trust because of the strong likelihood that members of the public were led to believe as fact things that are simply untrue after watching that program. The program additionally may have slandered certain former public officials by causing members of the public to believe that those officials made reprehensible decisions that they never made and failed to take needed actions in situations that never existed.
The decision to broadcast this program is a clear contravention of the public interest in truthful programming and in understanding what really happened to cause a public tragedy like 9/11 such that the provisions of 47 U.S.C. Section 307 have not been met and a license renewal should therefore not be granted to (fill in the blank). (Fill in the blank) has attempted to confuse and mislead me and many other members of the public by broadcasting that program and should not be rewarded a station license renewal for its reprehensible actions.
That is just a potential argument that I personally might consider making when my ABC affiliate WABC's license comes up for renewal. You may wish to make a similar argument but whether or not the argument is valid or will be accepted I do not know. It could turn out that ABC gives in and does not broadcast that Riefenstahl-esque film. (Ed. Note: they didn't and their editing work wasn't effective.)
(Ed. Note: The following is a new paragraph not in the original.)
The laws it may have violated are 47 U.S.C. Section 307 and 47 U.S.C. Section 308. Read them and feel free to read other laws as well. Go to http://uscode.house.gov/, click on search, and enter 47 for the "Title" and 5 for the "Chapter". Then search. Or enter III for the "Subchapter" if you want to see provisions that specifically deal with radio and television. But understand that this is not an official version of the code. Parts of it are not quite current due to changes in the law by Congress. So do not rely on it for any legal purposes but feel free to use it for educational purposes.
Gosh I hope not. But seriously, there are just a few more things I'd like to say. This whole effort might seem pointless but that's what they said about Lamont's campaign when it got going.
There are a lot of ABC affiliates out there. Ten in California alone. And all ten of those are up for renewal right now. If even one of them lost its license, it would be a death-knell for current ABC and Disney management. They know it, they just don't believe it could actually happen. But maybe one of those affiliates has had some other questionable incidents. Maybe there are some skeletons in their closets and this could be what pushes it over the edge.
So without further ado, here are the section header lines for all of the ABC affiliates in California that you would want to include in any informal complaint you may choose to write.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KAEF-TV, Arcata, CA whose Facility ID number is 8236. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060809ADY.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KERO-TV, Bakersfield, CA whose Facility ID number is 40878. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060802AAI.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KFSN-TV, Fresno, CA whose Facility ID number is 8620. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060810ANJ.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KABC-TV, Los Angeles, CA whose Facility ID number is 282. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060810ANG.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KESQ-TV, Palm Springs, CA whose Facility ID number is 25577. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060718AEM.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KRCR-TV, Redding, CA whose Facility ID number is 8291. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060809AEE.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KXTV, Sacramento, CA whose Facility ID number is 25048. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060802AMH.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KGTV, San Diego, CA whose Facility ID number is 40876. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060731AFX.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KGO-TV, San Francisco, CA whose Facility ID number is 34470. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060810ANL.
Subject: Informal Objection to the Renewal of the License of KEYT-TV, Santa Barbara, CA whose Facility ID number is 60637. The license renewal application file number is BRCT-20060802BBQ.
Well, that's about it. There's still time for them to pull this sucker (Ed. Note: they didn't, those fuckers), but if they don't, make sure you watch it.
Wait, what??? What do you mean watch that piece of... propaganda?!?!?
I didn't have any intention of watching it either as you can see if you review previous diaries and comments of mine. But if you don't watch it, you don't have very good grounds to complain about it to the FCC.
So at least watch a little of it. Just enough to get sickened by it ought to do (I do mean more than the first 10 seconds though. You really need to at least give the show a chance. You can probably safely kill it once it starts defaming somebody or lying about the historical facts. That's my plan anyway. It shouldn't take that long.)
Then get busy drafting your objections. And make sure you petition local civic groups, politicians, etc. to file formal petitions objecting to affiliate renewals. It's a very risky thing politically, but it's also some big time publicity and a chance to start a positive dialogue with America about just how corrupt the rightwing has become. Maybe the Big Dog'll jump in and formally protest WABC's renewal (it is his ABC affiliate now, after all) when the opportunity arises in just a month or so.
Finally, if you haven't written a letter to your local affiliate protesting it showing this program yet, do that now! They are required to keep letters they receive from the public and if they have reasonable and dignified letters (not mad rants) objecting to them showing this program and they show it anyway, they cannot exactly claim after the fact that they had no idea that it was objectionable and against the public interest to defame honorable former public servants and distort the historical record for fun and profit. (Ed. Note: It's too late to do this now but I'm sure enough people did that the record is established)
Well, thanks for reading. Good night and good luck.
(Ed. Note: Thanks for reading again. If you want the original version, FCC Licenses and You (The ABC / Path to 9-11 Edition) that link is where you'll find it. There's a long back and forth on free speech, slander/defamation/libel law, etc. in the comments between me and someone else if you're interested with lots of cites and links to interesting case law. So feel free to check it out. But please post new comments here. I hope you have found this helpful. Once again, good night and good luck.).