May 8, 2010 Walter commented on Did Q-13 Fox Suppress Police Brutality Video?.
COMTE:

If it's true that Q-13 indeed "sat" on this story, I'd have no problem with Q-13 feeling some heat. Yes; I agree, with anyone who would make the observation, that it strains credulity for Q-13 to say they were considering what to do with the story for a period of weeks and had not aired the video for such reason. Therefore, I offered the idea of challenging Q-13 on this at the time their license is up for renewal and in the public interest context to which you refer. But, in terms of a legal right to do what they did and of a common practice in broadcast news (in other news media as well), this stuff happens not just legally but routinely. I write this not to condone it but to simply note that it IS what it IS.

It's true that there's a distinction between what software companies can do with software and what broadcasters can do with information. Yet, when you look at this from the perspective of copyrights and what a stringer/videographer can do when working for a TV station versus what a programmer can do in context to copyrights, there's not much, if any, difference between one and the other, at least not LEGALLY. Ethics may be another matter. With ethics considered, it remains true that, unless Morris can PROVE he was off the clock and acting as an individual having no association with Q-13 when he shot that video, he had no LEGAL right to sell it to KIRO-TV. (never mind, for the moment, that, even if he had the legal right to do so and he was outraged by what he recorded as well as Q-13's reluctance to air it, there should have been no thought of SELLING it rather than simply GIVING it to KIRO-TV as his civic duty) Take Q-13 to task, if you like. It would be a good idea to do so, though, recognizing that (1) this is typical background noise in broadcasting and, (2) as bad as it looks or may be, it's not bad enough to deprive Q-13's owners of their license while it MIGHT, however, be used to insert something in their public file that sits like a poison pill for any consideration of a repeat performance. But you'd have to clearly and convincingly demonstrate Q-13 intended to sit on the story instead of dither over what to do about it. That would be a difficult task absent documentation and/or first-person witnesses who could provide evidence Q-13 intended to "suppress."
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May 8, 2010 Walter joined My Stranger Face
May 8, 2010 Walter commented on Did Q-13 Fox Suppress Police Brutality Video?.
As I understand the details, Morris probably didn't have a right to sell the video to KIRO-TV. Unless he can PROVE his time sheets do not reflect what actually happened, the video is controlled (or can be) by Q-13. This is a reality that has existed for a long time. Stringers know how this works.

I think the courts would easily find that freedom of speech includes the option not to speak or to be free from being forced to reveal information a broadcaster chooses NOT to reveal -- information for which there is no legal obligation to reveal to authorities if not the public. Editorial decisions like this are made every day and not just in broadcasting. Are they often questionable, unethical or inconsistent with a likely desire in the public to know? Yes. But, nevertheless, that's the way it is.

Those of you who write software for a living know the score. While working for Microsoft or some other company, you may have written the best little encryption program that anyone has ever seen or could see. But, the company, for whatever reason, doesn't want to use it and doesn't want its competitors to get the slightest wind of it. You, the programmer, might wish for the public to have it anyway as a public domain offering. But you can't do it, no matter how noble it might be to do it, because that software isn't yours; it's the company's to do with as they please -- even to keep it hidden away.

If you want to make Q-13 feel some heat and assuming they actually sat on the video rather than were legitimately considering whether they should air it, then challenge them with the FCC at license renewal. Get all the solid information you can before you do. State a well-rasoned case, consistent with previous decisions from the FCC on whether a TV station has met its obligation to serve the communities of its ADI (Area of Dominant Influence) as it should. This incident would not lead, barring some new evidence to the contrary not yet known, to the owners of KCPQ losing their license. But, if the case is stated well to the FCC, it might leave the station with a black (or maybe deep gray) mark on its official record (in its public file) that would give it incentive not to sit on something like this anytime soon.
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