FCC Commissioner Wants Probe of Siegelman 60 Minutes Blackout


You remember the awful luck of WHNT, that CBS affiliate in North Alabama; on the night of the broadcast of 60 Minutes‘ story on Don Siegelman, just during the Siegelman segment, the station’s feed went black. After initially blaming CBS for the error, WHNT revised its story and said that it had in fact been a technological problem at the station.

As questions mounted, the station ran the segment again that night (during the Oscars) and then again at 6 o’clock the following day as penance. But for some reason, a number of people seem disinclined to take them at their word. From Reuters:

A U.S. Federal Communications Commission official is seeking an inquiry into the blacking out of a politically charged segment of the CBS News magazine “60 Minutes” by a local television station in Alabama.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said he had asked the chairman of the FCC to open an inquiry into the Feb. 24 incident at WHNT, a CBS affiliate in Huntsville, Alabama, in which civil rights footage from the 1960s was blacked out.

“The FCC now needs to find out if something analogous is going on here,” Copps said at a luncheon with media watchdog groups. “Was this an attempt to suppress information on the public airwaves, or was it really just a technical problem?”

Copps is one of two Democratic appointees on the five-member FCC. The chairman of the agency, Kevin Martin, is a Republican.

Martin responded by saying he would look into the matter but has not indicated yet whether he would issue a letter of inquiry to the station, a source close to the commission said.