Kerry Presses FCC on 60 Minutes Siegelman Blackout

Did CBS Alabama affiliate WHNT just have really rotten luck with its equipment during 60 Minutes’ segment on ex-Gov. Don Siegelman (D), or did the station actually try to censor the story on Republicans’ alleged attempts to use the Justice Department to take out a political opponent?

Michael Copps, a Dem appointee on the Federal Communications Commission, has already begun pushing for an investigation. Chairman Kevin Martin has been noncommittal.

But Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, wants Martin to know that he’ll be keeping an eye on things. In a letter to Martin today, he asks that Martin share whatever findings emerge from an investigation, and adds “I will be monitoring this situation closely.”

The full letter is below.

March 5, 2008

The Honorable Kevin J. Martin
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Martin:

According to recent press reports, on Sunday, February 24th, a segment of “60 Minutes” addressing the conviction of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman failed to air on WHNT-TV in Huntsville, Alabama. Instead of the regularly scheduled segment, viewers were subjected to several minutes of dead air. Following the completion of the segment, the station resumed its broadcast of “60 Minutes” without further incident.

Although the station reportedly blamed the black out on a technical malfunction, questions have been raised as to whether the nature of the content played a role.

I understand that you will be looking into the details of this incident, including the reason for the station’s failure to broadcast this segment. Upon the completion of your inquiry, I ask that you share your findings and conclusions with interested members of the congressional committees of jurisdiction, so that we will know that a complete inquiry has been conducted.

It is a fundamental responsibility of the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that broadcasters fulfill their duties as trustees of the public airwaves. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I will be monitoring this situation closely, and I look forward to the resolution of your inquiry.

The Honorable Michael J. Copps, FCC Commissioner
The Honorable Jonathan S. Adelstein, FCC Commissioner
The Honorable Deborah T. Tate, FCC Commissioner
The Honorable Robert M. McDowell, FCC Commissioner

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