Justice Takes A While

Exactly six months ago, I filed a complaint with the FCC regarding Madison right-wing radio harpy Vicki McKenna’s violation of broadcast law by playing a recorded phone call without the permission of the caller. Since then, McKenna’s employer, the Clear Channel-owned WIBA-AM, pulled McKenna’s podcasts from the station web site and McKenna claimed that she and her employer were being unjustly persecuted. (Her podcasts have been restored during the last month – including the show that landed her in hot water in the first place.)
Nothing could be further from the truth: the more speech the better, but use of the public airwaves comes with some responsibilities. So I called the FCC’s consumer help-line to inquire about the status of my “case.”
Surprisingly, I got an actual human being after spending less than five minutes on hold. She told me that the Enforcement Bureau is actively investigating the complaint, and that the agency won’t make any comments about it until it is resolved. How long could that take? “Months, even a year.”
The FCC’s complaint investigation process is not completely linear (the linked graph refers to indecency/obscenity complaints, but the process effectively works the same way for every complaint).
Given the suggested time-frame for resolution of this complaint, I suspect the FCC has requested information from Clear Channel about the substance of the violation and the company’s engaged its stable of lawyers to respond in a manner which seeks to mitigate any potential fine.
Once the FCC reaches the decision to formally penalize a broadcaster, there are more rounds of correspondence between the agency and the accused – a form of haggling ensues over just how stiff the penalty should be.
Considering that I have not been contacted to provide more information about the allegation, it’s safe to assume that the FCC has all the evidence it needs to slap Vicki McKenna’s (and Clear Channel’s) wrist. The company’s reaction to the complaint was similarly unambiguous.
You’d think in a world of ever-speedier communication that the FCC would move more quickly on such business, but if slow and steady wins the race I’m certainly okay with that.

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