Friday, September 2, 2011

Gov't not liable for TV station excluding Green Party from debates, court rules

Just because a broadcaster is licensed by the federal government -- and even when a significant amount of its funding comes from government -- doesn't mean the government is responsible for what shows -- or doesn't show, according to U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman in Chicago.

On August 18, Gettleman dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Green Party in 2010 against WTTW-TV (Window to the World Communications, Inc.) for excluding Green gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney (shown above during a campaign stop in Macomb) and U.S. Senate candidate LeAlan Jones from debates the PBS affiliate telecast.

The Green Party sued on the grounds that its First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

The Green Party has been recognized by the state of Illinois as an established political party since Whitney in 2006 received more than 11 percent of the votes for governor.

In a five-page opinion, Gettleman dismissed the case on the grounds that the defendant is neither owned by the government nor was it acting as an arm of the government. WTTW is a non-profit corporation.

A footnote in the decision says that the court would be disinclined to force Whitney or the Greens to pay attorneys’ fees to the defendants.

Meanwhile, it seems that earnest journalists must now shoulder a heavier burden in justifying to the public any editorial decisions to ignore or exclude "recognized," legitimate or long-shot candidates for political office, whether Whitney, Republican Ron Paul or Democrat Dennis Kucinich.