Citing FCC's guidelines, UCC challenges station's license renewal
October - November 2005
October 1, 2005

Standing up for the educational needs of Hispanic children, the UCC's Office of Communication Inc. filed petitions on Aug. 31 with the Federal Communications Commission asking that the license renewal application of a Spanish-language television broadcaster in Cleveland be denied because of alleged failure to comply with children's educational programming standards.

The UCC's action against Univision Cleveland, Inc. (WQHS-TV) represented the first time that a Spanish-speaking station's license renewal has been challenged for failure to comply with the Children's Television Act of 1990 and the children's educational guidelines, adopted by the FCC in 1996, that require local stations to air at least three hours per week of specifically educational programming.

The license challenge was announced at a press conference held at Cleveland's Buenas Nuevas UCC, where church and community leaders called on the FCC to hold stations accountable to public-interest guidelines.

At issue is the station's airing of "Complices al Rescate," a telenovela that "fails miserably" to satisfy the FCC's children's educational programming guidelines, according to Gloria Tristani, managing director of the UCC's OC, Inc., and a former FCC Commissioner.

The disputed program centers around twin girls — unaware of their familial ties because they were separated at birth — who, as friends, "hatch a plan to switch identities, leading to many comical and surprising moments," according to a website description.

Univision, the fifth largest U.S. broadcast network in any language, is the leading Spanish-language media company in the United States, reaching 98 percent of the U.S. Spanish-speaking population. Almost all of the Univision Network broadcasters rely on "Complices al Rescate" as their only children's educational program.

Hispanics represent slightly more than 1 percent of the UCC's 1.3-million members, and represent the largest growing racial/ethnic constituency of new UCC congregations.

Also on Aug. 31, OC, Inc. announced that it was challenging the license renewal of Cleveland's English-speaking UPN affiliate, WUAB-TV (Channel 43), on similar grounds, arguing that its use of the animated program "Sabrina" did not satisfy FCC requirements.

The UCC has long advocated for persons historically excluded from the media, especially women and people of color. In a 1964 landmark case against WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., the UCC helped to establish the legal precedent that television stations, because of operating on public-owned airwaves, must serve the needs of their communities of license.

OC, Inc.'s most-recent FCC complaints mark the second time in less than a year that the UCC-related entity has filed license-challenge petitions concerning children's education programming. In September 2004, OC, Inc. filed petitions against two stations in the Washington, D.C., area, arguing that they failed to meet FCC guidelines. 

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Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org