Detroit TV clears license hurdle


One-time Deputy Mayor Michael Greiner of Warren MI has failed in an attempt to have the FCC deny a license renewal for Scripps Howard's ABC 7 WXYZ-TV Detroit. His basic complaint was that a WXYZ news reporter set up a story called "Michigan Boys" which was about members of the local business community and at least one public official consorting with prostitutes during a fishing trip to Costa Rica. Greiner alleged that the reporter, Steve Wilson, paid prostitutes to show up at the hotel where members of the fishing expedition were staying, then "falsely reported that the participants consorted with the prostitutes." Channel 7 denied the charges, as did Wilson and his cameraman.

The FCC says it has never "codified its news distortion policy," meaning that a case must be built to determine if a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the charge could possibly be accurate. The FCC agreed that if in fact Wilson paid the prostitutes that would constitute "staging" a news story and would support a license challenge. However, Greiner failed to meet a second prong, the provision of reliable evidence that the allegation did indeed occur. What little substantiation was available was determined to be hearsay and the challenge to the license was denied.