After two years of deliberations, the Federal Communications Commission decided yesterday that complaints of racism and anti-Semitism could not be considered in hearings about the renewal of the license of a Dodge City, Kan., radio station. At the same time, the commission decided to have an administrative law judge rule whether the present owner of KTTL-FM should be awarded renewal of the license.
The license had been challenged in June 1983 by several groups, which told the FCC that two programs contained disparaging remarks about Jews, blacks and other minority groups. The challengers, according to yesterday's FCC statement, also asked that the license renewal be denied because "the station aired programs attacking the orderly system of U.S. government, urging listeners to ignore law enforcement authorities and attacking the U.S. monetary system."
In discussing the First Amendment issue, the commission quoted from an earlier FCC decision on a complaint brought in another case by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. "That said 'if there is to be free speech, it must be free for speech that we abhor and hate as well as for speech that we find tolerable or congenial.' Accordingly, the FCC adhered to its policy not to use its regulatory power to rule material off the air even when such material is offensive to many members of the broadcasters' audience."
Petitions to deny the license renewal had been filed by Dodge Citizens for Better Broadcasting and the National Black Media Coalition. Three Jewish organizations had lodged informal complaints.