Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mr. Van DEERLIN. Did the Commission, and I put the question to you, did you give the Army any advice as to the implications for the relicensing process of stations who now sell time that has traditionally been provided as public service or should it enter into the discussion

Mr. BARTLEY. I should be willing to say definitely "No."

Mr. VAN DEERLIN. What would be the attitude of the Commission or at least one Commissioner for whom you can speak toward licensees, who, finding that it is now possible to be paid for a service that has previously been provided gratis, in turn refuse to carry free further announcements either of recruiting by the Army or public service spots that might similarly be undertaken on behalf of the Marine Corps, Air Force, or Navy?

Mr. BARTLEY. I would be perfectly willing to answer that question personally, but not for the Commission.

Mr. VAN DEERLIX. Obviously.

Mr. BARTLEY. But, I have the unfortunate background of having been a broadcaster, so I think I know a little bit about how he would feel. I think if they started to buy an ad, I think that was enough. I think I would be particularly upset if I saw my competitor receiving pay for a commercial and my carrying public service spots for nothing. This would create a problem.

This, I think, would be a problem to them.

Mr. VAN DEERLIN. Well, the question, of course, would turn on a station which had not received a contract and might then decide "If others are being paid, I don't see why my time should be made available on a public service basis."

Mr. BARTLEY. Getting back to being a Commissioner, I have a good deal of trouble, frankly, in giving them a bad mark for that.

Mr. Van DEERLIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MACDONALD. Mr. Brown.

Mr. BROWN. Mr. Bartley, it is nice to see you. I am very glad we have gotten into this subject thanks to the resolution Mr. Van Deerlin has introduced. I regret I am the ranking Republican present this morning, but Mr. Keith had to go to Massachusetts because his wife is undergoing surgery today and he regrets he is not able to be here for this presentation. He is very much interested in it, too, but hopefully he will be able to be back tomorrow with good news.

I think Mr. Van Deerlin's line of questioning touched on a number of things that I am specifically interested in. It occurs to me that there are problems with even public service announcements, because some of the public service announcements are in areas that may be or have some philosophic disagreement in this country.

Now, does the Commission have any position on what is a public service announcement or does it have any control over the public service announcements as they are prepared by the various agencies of the Federal Government?

Mr. BARTLEY. No, sir.

Mr. Brown. The Peace Corps, savings bonds, programs by the Defense Department which are available free, is there any definition of a public service announcement per se?

[ocr errors]

Mr. BARTLEY. There is a definition for purposes of logging the announcements. They are to be logged. I think there is a definition for a public service announcement and I can get it, but I don't have it.

Mr. Brown. If you have it, it will be helpful. (The information referred to follows:)

[ocr errors]

DEFINITION OF PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT A public service announcement (PSA) is any announcement (including network) for which no charge is made and which promotes programs, activities, or services of federal, state, or local governments (e.g., recruiting, sales of bonds, etc.) or the programs, activities or services of non-profit organizations (e.g., UGF, Red Cross blood donations, etc.), and other announcements regarded as serving community interests, excluding time signals, routine weather announcements and promotional announcements.

Mr. Brown. I happen to be a supporter of the Peace Corps, but I know there are people in this country who perhaps are not.

What if somebody who was anti-Peace Corps decided they wanted to have equal time to respond to a recruiting announcement for the Peace Corps ?

Mr. BARTLEY. Well, we have had this in two or three different areas. We have had groups come in wanting to discuss matters on actually, I think, the draft and we have had them on pollution and any number of other things, and we have had rulings, but those we consider are under the fairness doctrine and we have not extended, relating to commercial broadcasting, not public service announcements. I don't believe we have had requests for countering those unless it is recruiting announcements.

Well, I suppose these are public service announcements. I can get you those. We have ruled on those.

Mr. Brown. Are you telling me you have never had a request for fairness time based on a public service announcement.

Mr. BARTLEY. I think I was wrong if I did say that. I think one of them was on the recruiting announcements, Peace Corps. And we have issued a ruling on that.

Mr. Brown. Could we get a copy of that ruling?
Mr. BARTLEY. Yes, sir, I can supply that.

Mr. BROWN. Also we want that information for the record because
I think it would be helpful.
(Copy of ruling and correspondence relating thereto follows:)

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION,

Washington, D.C., June 4, 1970.
Mr. ALAN F. NECKRITZ,
Berkeley, Calif.

DEAR MR. NECKRITZ: This letter is written in response to your complaint received on March 9, 1970, in which you allege that station KFRC, San Francisco, California, has violated the fairness doctrine by airing "public service broadcasts” on behalf of the United States Army, Navy and Air Force and denying broadcast time for the presentation of "opposing" viewpoints. The basis of your complaint is that the armed forces recruitment broadcasts constitute the presentation of one side of a controversial issue of public importance.

In support of your complaint you assert that the "values represented by the present "peacetime' armed services” are subject to dispute, as are the benefits and advisability of military enlistment. You state that between January 26 and March 1, 1970, station KFRC devoted 405 minutes 30 seconds of air time

to armed forces public service announcements, in the form of musical programs presented on behalf of branches of the armed forces which were interlaced with recruitment messages and separate public service spot announcements. You state that “when such a large segment of our population (is) vehemently opposed to our military involvement in Vietnam and the foreign policy that it represents, the advocacy of the benefits and advisability of 'volunteering' or 'enlisting in the military as opposed to seeking a deferment or exemption definitely constitutes a controversial issue of public importance." Thus, it would appear that you believe recruitment messages to represent a controversial issue of public importance because of the controversy surrounding the participation of the United States armed forces in Vietnam. You further appear to consider that enlistment has been presented as an alternative to selective service draft and state that deferment from military service represents another alternative to the question of discharging one's military obligation. As precedent for your request you cite the Commission's application of the fairness doctrine to cigarette commercials (FCC 67-641).

Station KFRC refused your request for air time (for you or other representatives of your viewpoint) to present material opposing the merits of service in the Armed Forces. In denying your request the station stated that armed forces recruitment messages did not raise the issue of the war in Vietnam nor did it support military involvement in foreign countries. Further, that the recruitment messages advocate only voluntary enlistment and therefore do not raise the issue of selective service draft and do not claim that military enlistment is the sole source of technical training or future success.

First, we do note, as we stated in the letter to Mr. Kramer issued this day (copy enclosed), that on the draft issue,"... non-military and honorable alternatives to service in the military are certainly of substantial interest to the public and, in coverage of this issue, constitute a facet of a controversial issue of public importance to which a licensee should afford broadcast opportunity, as a part of his obligation to inform the public.” However, that is not the issue raised by the recruitment announcements before us.

We have reviewed the arguments advanced in support of your complaint and conclude that station KFRC did not act in contravention of the fairness doctrine in denying opportunity for the presentation of views opposing the military recruitment announcements. Under the fairness doctrine licensees are obliged in the first instance to determine whether one side of a controversial issue of public importance has been broadcast. The Commission will not substitute its judgment, if the licensee acts reasonably and in good faith. See letters to David Tillson, 19 FCC 2d 511 (1959); and Mrs. Madalyn Murray, 40 FCC 647 (1965). In the present situation, station KFRG has clearly set forth the reasons for its refusal and they are not, in our opinion, unreasonable.

The question of whether Armed Forces recruitment announcements constitute a controversial issue of public importance has recently been the subject of a letter to Mr. Donald Jelinek. In that letter, it is concluded that recruitment announcements, in and of themselves, do not constitute the presentation of one side of a controversial issue of public importance. Since we rely here upon the reasons set forth in that letter, a copy of the letter is enclosed.

In view of the foregoing, no further Commission action is warranted. Commissioner Johnson dissented and issued the attached statement (letter to Mr. Jelinek). By direction of the Commission.

BEN F. WAPLE, Secretary.

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION,

Washington, D.C., June 1, 1970. Mr. ALBERT A. KRAMER, Citizens Communications Center, Washington, D.O.

DEAR MR. KRAMER: The Commission is in receipt of a complaint filed March 23, 1970, on behalf of Professor David C. Green, individually and as Chairman of the Peace Committee of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Complainant), against television stations WRC and WMAL, Washington, D.C. The complaint states that the stations continually grant air time for announcements sponsored by the Armed Forces which are designed to encourage and increase enlistment in various branches of the military services. It is contended that these announcements raise a controversial issue of public importance within the fairness doctrine and that the licensees have violated this doctrine by refusing to grant air time in the form of spot announcements for the presentation of argument against service in the Armed Forces and alternatives to, or information regarding exemptions from, military service as a means of fulfilling one's obligation to one's country. It is further contended that military recruitment via Armed Forces spot advertisements or announcements is itself a controversial issue of public importance.

The nub of the issue raised by the complaint is the assertion that "coverage of anti-Vietnam activities and sentiments does not deal with the desirabilitą of bearing arms versus the desirability of alternative service.” Complainants specifically note that the issue to which they seek time for response is the “desirability of regular military service even were there no war raging half a world away (Vietnam)."

Before filing the present complaint, Professor Green contacted stations WRC and WMAL and requested free time “to rebut the claim made by the numerous military recruitment advertisements presented on your station that a career in the Armed Forces is desirable, rewarding, and the best way to serve one's country.” Both WRC and WMAL declined Professor Green's request for time to present spot announcements opposing military service. In rejecting Professor Green's request, station WMAL-TV indicated that the issue which he sought to present could not be treated through spot announcements, but should be the subject of more extended discussion within a program. The station offered Professor Green time on its “Outlook" program.

Station WRC-TV also rejected the spot announcements of the Peace Committee. In the station's opinion the recruiting announcements did not present one side of a controversial issue of public importance, since there is no substantial public controversy concerning the need or desirability of having Armed Forces or concerning voluntary recruitment. We have been informally advised that the station has offered the Society of Friends time to appear on two religious program series on which they would have an opportunity to present their views.

The first issue is whether the licensees, in broadcasting the Armed Forces recruitment announcements, have presented one side of a controversial issue of public importance. Station WRC-TV has stated its judgment that the recruiting announcements do not do so, and the question is thus whether that judgment is arbitrary. For the Commission to find the judgment to be arbitrary, there must be a showing or reasonable indication that there is a significant controversy of public importance on whether the United States at this time should maintain armed forces, and, what is essentially the same thing, whether persons should volunteer for service in the armed forces. We appreciate the long-held position of the Friends concerning pacifism, but we cannot say, based on material before us, that the licensee's judgment on this score is unreasonable.

In this connection, we note that the announcement which the Friends Peace Committee seeks to have broadcast does not deal with the issue of whether there should be armed forces, but rather focuses on the draft. Thus, it states that "for every draftee that goes off to war, there is a Christina [girl] left behind-sometimes for good", and that "there are legal alternatives to military service. You may be entitled to one of a number of deferments provided by law. For information write to ..." As WRC-TV states, there is "substantial controversy concerning the draft ..."

On this draft issue, non-military and honorable alternatives to service in the military are certainly of substantial interest to the public and, in the coverage of this issue, constitute a facet of a controversial issue of public importance to which a licensee should afford broadcast opportunity, as a part of his obligation to inform the public. The licensees here are covering this issue as a part of the requirement to devote a reasonable amount of time to issues of public importance-an important aspect of a licensee's obligation under the Communica

1 Promotional advertisements sponsored by the Armed Forces urge service in the military as an honorable way to serve one's country. Absent specific demonstration to the contrary, we can not accept your premise that Armed Forces announcements generally portray service in the military as the only way to honorably serve one's country.

tions Act to ascertain and serve the needs and interests of his area. See Red Lion Broadcasting Company, Inc., v. Federal Communications Commission, 395 US 367 (1969) ; Report on Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees, 13 FCC 1246, 1250 (1949). It is the responsibility of the licensee to determine the specific manner in which he chooses to fulfill his farness obligations and the Commission will not dictate the form of the presentation-e.g., discussion or panel shows, new shows, etc. The licensee is of course expected to make judgments in good faith as to the amount of broadcast time to be devoted to any issue of interest to the public and these judgments will vary with the nature of issues being considered. The most important issues will generally be afforded the most broadcast time.

Turning to this complaint against stations WMAL-TV and WRC-TV, we note that both stations, although they declined to broadcast the views urged by Professor Green and his group in the form of promotional spot announcements, have offered an opportunity for the presentation of such views in the context of substantive programming. Absent evidence that stations WMAL and WRC have failed in their overall programming to achieve fairness in their coverage of the controversial issue here involved (i.e., the draft), the Commission will not disturb the licensees' determination as to how to best inform the public of the various facets of issues of controversial public importance.

In reaching the conclusion that no fairness doctrine violation has been demonstrated, we do not mean to imply that nothing connected with a public service announcement could bear upon a controversial issue of public importance. Such announcements, in particular instances, may present one side of a controversy. Here, we simply note that there is no indication that any such announcement (i.e., one presenting one side of a controversial issue of public importance) was broadcast by any station in the San Francisco area.

In view of the foregoing, we have determined that no further action is warranted at this time. Commissioner Johnson dissented and issued the attached statement (letter to Mr. Jelinek). By direction of the Commission.

BEN F. WAPLE, Secretary.

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION,

Washington, D.C., June 4, 1970. Mr. DONALD A. JELINEK, Berkeley, Calif.

DEAR MR. JELINEK: The Commission is in receipt of a complaint filed on February 25, 1970, on behalf of San Francisco Women For Peace, The GI Association and The Resistance (complainants), against numerous radio and television stations in the San Francisco, California area. Briefly stated, complainants contend that the San Francisco stations have violated the fairness doctrine in that armed forces recruitment messages have been broadcast as public service announcements, but the stations have refused to broadcast "public service announcements opposing the viewpoint expressed in the military recruitment announcements" which complainants have offered to supply.

In support of their contention that the armed forces recruitment announcements raise controversial issue of public importance, complaints assert that: There are many groups in the San Francisco area who do not believe it is beneficial to the individual or society at large for people to participate in the armed forces; armed forces recruitment cannot be considered without reference to the war in Vietnam since the primary purpose of the U.S. Armed Forces is to fight wars and a military recruit is very likely to be stationed in the Vietnam war zone at some time during his military career (U.S. v. Sisson, 294 F. Supp. 511 (D. Mass) 1968, at 513); and there are many groups in the San Francisco area who believe the best course of action for young men "is to seek one of the many possible deferments from military service provided for by Congress." Complainants assert that the Commission's application of the fariness doctrine to cigarette advertising (9 FCC 20 921 (1967)) is analogous and requires application of the fairness doctrine to the recruitment announcements complained of and that the fact that the U.S. Government is the sponsor does not exclude the matter from application of the fairness doctrine. (Report on Editorializing, 13 FCC at 1249)). Complainants also argue that their point of view is entitled

« PreviousContinue »