FCC opens inquiry into Siegelman report blackout

Remember the curious glitch that prevented a CBS affliliate in northern Alabama from airing the recent 60 Minutes' report -- and that report only -- on the politics behind the controversial prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman? Well, the Federal Communications Commission has launched an inquiry into the incident, Reuters reports:

The FCC issued a "notice of inquiry" to WHNT, a CBS affiliate in Huntsville, Alabama, in connection with an outage that cut off a segment of the February 24 broadcast of "60 Minutes," an FCC spokeswoman said.

WHNT, which has blamed the black-out on equipment failure, has 30 days to respond with an explanation of what happened in the incident.

The inquiry came at the request of Commissioner Michael Copps, one of two Democratic appointees on the five-member body. The agency's chairman, Kevin Martin, is a Republican.

WHNT is owned by an investment firm whose founder's family has close ties to the Bushes, and it's managed by Local TV, a company headed by a former Clear Channel Communications executive and major Bush contributor. After initially blaming the blackout on a CBS transmission problem, the station management has since maintained that the problem was caused at the receiving end by an equipment failure that cut off the feed. The station later re-aired the segment twice.

The FCC inquiry comes amid mounting calls from across the political spectrum for Siegelman to be freed from prison and for the case to be investigated. Last week former Former Reagan Treasury official and Wall Street Journal editor Paul Craig Roberts joined the chorus, writing in CounterPunch that Siegelman "was framed in a crooked trial ... and sent to Federal prison by the corrupt and immoral Bush Administration."