I got a voicemail out of the blue from the lead FCC attorney working on my Freedom of Information Act request into how the agency makes judgments on journalism. Hard to know what precipitated it, but it came a week to the day after the FCC dinged a Las Vegas TV station six figures for actively constructing fake news reports on car dealership closeout sales.
It’s been nearly three months since I last heard from the Federal Communications Commission about the agency’s determinations on the journalistic legitimacy of a news organization I founded more than a decade ago.
For those just tuning in: earlier this year, the FCC fined a Chicago radio station more than $40,000 for airing newscasts produced by Workers Independent News. The FCC, in historically unprecedented fashion, categorized WIN as something other than journalism and admonished the offending station for deceiving its listeners.
I filed a FOIA request to get a sense of just how the FCC came to this determination, and what the implications of its decision might be on other independent media outlets seeking public access to the airwaves. The FCC, to put it mildly, has been less than helpful.
In a May 2 letter to Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), Karen Onyeije, the Chief of Staff of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, says the agency will not reconsider its determination that Workers Independent News is not news.
Last week I had the honor of being Radio Survivor‘s inaugural guest on their first Google Hangout. Radio Survivor’s Paul Riismandel and I have known each other for more than a decade; I was a frequent guest on his Mediageek radio show, so in many respects for me it was like traveling back in time to simpler days.
That said, our 90-minute conversation went deep into two major projects: my ongoing tribulations with the Federal Communications Commission regarding its crazy foray into defining journalism, and my new book, Radio’s Digital Dilemma.
Today I had a long conversation with two agency attorneys, who report that because my request was so broad (any correspondence related to the WLS case) there may well be more than 1,000 pages of documents involved. The majority of these are apparently e-mails between FCC staff.