Media Action Center Files Legal Action to Deny Milwaukee "Conservative" Radio Licenses

November 1, 2012

The Media Action Center has filed Petitions to Deny the licenses of Clear Channel's WISN-AM and Journal Communications WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee.  
Both cite MAC's formal complaint to the FCC about the stations donating nearly a million dollars of free airtime to supporters of Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP candidates during last spring's recall election, while refusing to allow supporters of opposing candidate Mayor Tom Barrett and other Democratic candidates any access to station microphones whatsoever.  
The Petitions charge that WISN and WTMJ management willfully violated FCC rules during elections and furthermore, violated the First Amendment rights of the petitioners and the greater community of Milwaukee.


  1. Of course in typical form you ignore the facts. For one thing you ignore the fact that leftwing media was putting their own spin on it. The likes of Ed Schultz were camped out in Wisconsin. Is it freedom of speech that you are against or just speech you don't agree with?

  2. You write:
    "Of course Sue like all leftist concentrated on the “Scott Walker recall” ignoring the fact that Obama won the election proving that Conservative radio does not have the negative impact that they claim. They just did not make their case to the public through their outlets. Their Hypocrisy is also apparent in the fact that they do not hold left wing talk radio to the same standard. Ed Schultz was camped out in Wisconsin pushing for the leftist agenda." HARRUMPF.
    I am so happy to hold all radio STATIONS (not specific programs) accountable to the same standard. Do you notice that no Progressive radio is covering this? They are as afraid of providing access to both sides - during 60 day Campaign periods only - as you are.
    As to being leftist, did ya know one of my Emmys was for my work at FOX? Righty's loved me then. As to Obama winning, it is not who wins, it is how you play the game that counts, didn't your mother teach you that? And oh yes, I hear that the GOP re-took your statehouse, are the GOP candidates still bragging that they win due to talk radio?

  3. I'd like to address Marshall's accusation that Ms. Wilson is against 1st Amendment rights or those with which she doesn't agree. That's a moot question. WISN and WTMJ broke FCC rules with blatant disregard for the 1 st Amendment rights of the community they serve.
    Marshall, are you against rules or just against those rules that the GOP feel entitled to break?

  4. Sue, You said,

    "I am so happy to hold all radio STATIONS (not specific programs) accountable to the same standard. Do you notice that no Progressive radio is covering this? They are as afraid of providing access to both sides – during 60 day Campaign periods only – as you are.

    As to being leftist, did ya know one of my Emmys was for my work at FOX? Righty’s loved me then. As to Obama winning, it is not who wins, it is how you play the game that counts, didn’t your mother teach you that?"

    As to my mother, yes she did, she also taught me the meaning of the constitution and how much freedom of speech and freedom of the press means!  Are you willing to hold all media including newspapers to the same standard or does this apply only to talk radio?  Haven't you ever heard of the equal protection clause contained in the 14th amendment?

    I notice you keep throwing out your Emmys to which I say so?  What is your experience in Broadcast Law or even Constitutional law?

    The quote from my blogpost comes from an FCC attorney with over 30 years experience.  Here's part of the quote.

    How is it that these programs can take political positions without triggering requirements that opposing candidates get equal time? Under FCC rules, unless a candidate’ recognizable voice or image is broadcast by a station, there is no right to equal opportunities.

    David D. Oxenford

    Named to The Best Lawyers in America (2011-2013)

    Named a Super Lawyer in Communications (2012)

    Honored as the Texas Association of Broadcasters, Associate Member of the Year, 2011

    Federal Communications Bar Association, Co-Chair, Intellectual Property Committee, Past Co-Chair of Mass Media Practice, Transactional Practice, Adjudicatory Practice and Continuing Legal Education Committees

    First Vice President, Board of Advisors, Thomas Jefferson Public Policy Program, College of William and Mary

    @ Sovereign Voice, I am a lifelong Broadcaster and am well versed in broadcast rules.

  5. Marshall, you just don't know the difference between apples and oranges. As I have explained to you before, more than once, newspapers have absolute Free Speech because anyone with enough money can start a newspaper. Radio stations enjoy Free Speech - unless they become indecent or unless they privately censor political views during campaigns. That's when government can regulate them. That's not me talking, that's the US Supreme Court. If you don't like it, take it up with them.

    As to your lawyer, he is talking about equal time. I am talking about comparable time. I spent hours with FCC lawyers figuring out the difference, and since you don't understand it, ask him to look it up for you!

  6. PS, I also am a lifelong broadcaster, and I also understand FCC rules exceedingly well. I, too, treasure Freedom of Speech. But when a 50,000 watt radio station decides that only GOP candidates can talk over the air during campaigns, that's not Freedom, that's fascism.

    Why ARE you SO afraid of having both sides on our publicly owned airwaves during campaigns? I answer your questions, you never answer mine.

  7. Oops, I see I didn't finish my thought about radio v newspapers. Because scientifically there are only a few radio frequencies in any one geographical area, they are termed scarce. So even if you have millions of dollars, you can't just start a radio station to compete with those already broadcasting. There aren't any new frequencies left to be had. It is the very scarcity of radio frequencies which allows the government to make sure they are being used fairly for ALL the owners of the public airwaves, GOP, Dems, Greens, Christians, atheists, ya know, everybody.

    God, I love this country!

  8. Oh, this is great, I quote David Oxenford of Broadcast Law Blog all the time. Note his talk about the Zapple Doctrine.

    "...the one vestige of the doctrine that potentially has some vitality - the Zapple Doctrine compelling a station to provide time to the supporters of one candidate if the station provides time to the supporters of another candidate in a political race, has never specifically been abolished, and is not mentioned in the Chairman's statement. Zapple, also known as "quasi-equal opportunities", has been argued in in various recent controversies, including in connection with the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry, when Kerry supporters claimed that they should get equal time to respond should certain television stations air the anti-Kerry Swift Boat "documentary." We have written about Zapple many times (see, for instance, here, in connection with the Citizens United decision). What would be beneficial to broadcasters would be a determination as to whether Zapple has any remaining vitality, as some have felt that this doctrine is justified independent of the Fairness Doctrine."

    We are forcing the FCC to rule on Zapple, Marshall, it is as simple as that.

  9. Another legal source, 2012:

    The “Zapple Doctrine”
    This exception is named after the
    case brought by Nick Zapple, then Chief Counsel for the Senate Communications Subcommittee. This exception is also referred to as the quasi-equal opportunity
    principle. Equal opportunities, we have observed, apply only to requests by candidates or their authorized campaign committees or representatives. But the
    Commission recognizes that a political imbalance would occur were only the supporters of one competing candidate to buy or obtain time. Thus, the Zapple doctrine requires that where A’s supporters have bought time, then legally qualified opponent
    B’s supporters (but not B himself) must also be given an opportunity to buy comparable time. Similarly, a gift of free time to A’s
    supporters must be countered with a gift of comparable free time to B’s supporters upon request. Note: the Zapple doctrine applies
    only to supporters of candidates with substantial support (generally meaning the
    nominees of major political parties). Further, it does not require the same degree of
    equivalence that is necessary for equal opportunities, but rather a roughly comparable opportunity.

  10. I of course am quite aware of the Zapple doctrine. It does not apply to the editorializing done by talk show hosts. Period. No candidate, no equal time period. From the same renowned Lawyer.

    "The other potential issue that this decision may bring to the fore is the status of the Zapple Doctrine. Section 315 of the Communications Act imposes the Equal Opportunities doctrine (otherwise known as "Equal Time") on stations, which the FCC has interpreted to mean that stations need to treat all candidates running for the same office in the same way - allowing them to buy equal amounts of advertising time on a station, and giving them equal amounts of free time on a station if the candidate appears outside of an exempt program (e.g. news or news interview programs, or on-the-spot coverage of a news event, including most debates). But the Equal Opportunities Doctrine applies only to candidates and their appearances on stations (or "uses", in the language of the FCC). What about the purchase of time by third party groups, which are technically not subject to the Equal Time rule? Well, more than 30 years ago, the FCC adopted the Zapple Doctrine, or "quasi-equal opportunities" as an outgrowth of the Fairness Doctrine. The Zapple case, as we wrote here and here, held that where supporters of a candidate are allowed to buy time on a station, supporters of the opposing candidate should also be allowed to buy roughly equivalent amounts of time. "

  11. Um, why then, does the Zapple rule specifically refer to "SUPPORTERS of candidates?" You have it in your own quote!

  12. The candidates don't get equal time to the editorializing of the talk show hosts, what makes you think that you do?

    Sue in your petition you make the claim.

    "Zapple does not prevent stations from editorializing.  If Station management goes on the air promoting or opposing a candidate, saying "these are the views of this station," we do not argue that their station is in violation.  Station may argue that anytime one of their hosts go on the air, they are also representing the views of the station. We challenge this assertion."


    Yet that is exactly what you call for.  The fact is that only candidates. Editors may not represent the views of the paper but the paper hires them to give their views.  Conservative Talk Show hosts bill themselves as such and their bias is obvious as are Liberal Talk show hosts.  People listen to hear the views that they subscribe to not to be forced to listen to the opposition.  This is sour grapes because no one wants to listen to "Progressive" radio.  The failure of Air America is proof of that.  It is interesting to note that every liberal talk show in Madison the heart of Progressivism failed and the Arbitron ratings are proof of that.

  13. Marshall,

    You still have not answered the key question: why, specifically, does the Broadcast Law Blog piece say, (and I am quoting from YOUR own quote,) "The Zapple case, as we wrote here and here, held that where SUPPORTERS OF A CANDIDATE are allowed to buy time on a station, SUPPORTERS OF THE OPPOSING CANDIDATE should also be allowed to buy roughly equivalent amounts of time." (emphasis added.)

    Zapple is about surrogates of candidates; this is not difficult to understand.

  14. Note:

    There is a debate over whether or not Zapple covers free time provided to supporters of candidates. However, as noted in our formal complaint, attorneys for the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association specifically told its members that

    "In addition to the equal opportunities rule, there is also a concept known as the 'Quasi-equal opportunities' doctrine. When a station sells time to supporters of one candidate to support that candidate or to criticize an opponent, the broadcaster must afford comparable time to supporters of the candidate's opponent. Nicholas Zapple, 23 FCC 2d 707 (1970) Commonly known as the 'Zapple Doctrine,' this requirement does not apply outside campaign periods or to appearances by a candidate's supporters that are exempt from the equal opportunity rule, such as those in news programming.

    The Zapple doctrine applies only to broadcasts concerning major party candidates 1st Fairness Report, 36 FCC 2d 40 (1972). It does not require that free time be given to the opposing side when the first side paid for its broadcast time, nor is time sold to supporters under the Zapple doctrine subject to lowest unit charge requirements. If the first side received free time, the Zapple doctrine requires that the other side also receive free time."

    This was echoed in our pleadings by former FCC chairman William Kennard,

    "In Nicholas Zapple, 23 FCC 2d 707 (1970), the Commission held that supporters of a candidate must be provided equal opportunities if supporters of an opposing candidate were given or sold time on a station."

  15. Sue you ignore the key words "buy time". Talk radio is by its very nature editorializing or "opinion". Your group classifies the talk show host as "a supporter" when they are doing exactly what they are hired to do. The arbitron ratings are an indicator of whether they are serving the public interest.

    The point is again the candidates do not qualify for equal time to the editorializing of the talk show hosts,so what makes you think you have more rights then the candidates themselves!

    You can't have it both ways, in your petition you make the claim ""Zapple does not prevent stations from editorializing." Yet that is exactly what you call for.

    For the most part talk show hosts are preaching to the choir. Liberals listen to liberal talk show host and conservatives listen to conservative talk shows.

    What you call for essentially shuts down talk radio.