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‘Think Tanks’ Aside, WHYY Can Keep Its License

The FCC has renewed the license of WHYY(FM) over the protests of Zack Smith.

The FCC has renewed the license of WHYY(FM) over the protests of Zack Smith.

He’d claimed that the Philadelphia public station’s license should not be renewed because it does not serve the public interest.

According to the FCC: “Smith states that the station’s ‘news content consists of an overwhelmingly large proportion of propaganda from well-known ‘think tanks,’ without any serious questioning of their opinions’” and that WHYY did not alert the public to the “‘criminal election rigging and voter exclusion and intimidation’ that took place during the 2004 election.”

The commission said Smith failed to identify a specific injury that would be caused to him or prove his listener/residence status. But it took the opportunity anyway to consider his petition as an informal objection and found that his core complaint relates to alleged “propaganda” programming.

The First Amendment and Communications Act prohibit the FCC from censoring program material or interfering with broadcasters’ free speech rights, it said.

“Generally, the commission will not take adverse action on a license renewal application based upon the subjective determination of a listener or group of listeners as to what constitutes appropriate programming,” wrote Peter Doyle, chief of the Audio Division of the Media Bureau.

“A licensee has broad discretion — based on its right to free speech — to choose, in good faith, the programming that it believes serves the needs and interests of the members of its audience. We will intervene in programming matters only if a licensee abuses that discretion.”

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