WASHINGTON — Five Protestant denominations asked an appeals court Wednesday to reverse a Federal Communications Commission ruling that they were not entitled to air time to respond to a critical report on a CBS "60 Minutes" program.
The churches contend they were attacked in the 1983 report on the use of missionary and relief money and that they should get the air time under the FCC's fairness doctrine. It requires broadcasters to present both sides when airing a "controversial issue of public importance."
"It has always been clear that religious issues are just as protected under the fairness doctrine as any other issues," Earle K. Moore, attorney for the churches, told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The FCC ruled last year that the report did not address a "controversial issue of public importance" and that the report thus wasn't covered by the "personal attack" rule of the fairness doctrine.
The CBS report, broadcast Jan. 23, 1983, focused on the outreach efforts in Africa and South America of the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches.