FCC looks into '60 Minutes' blackout


The FCC is launching an investigation into a mysterious signal loss by an Alabama CBS affiliate during a "60 Minutes" segment concerning allegations that the state's imprisoned former Democratic governor was railroaded by Republicans in the Justice Department.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin told reporters Tuesday that the commission received several complaints about the 12-minute blackout of Huntsville station WHNT-TV's broadcast on Feb. 24. The blackout occurred at the beginning of the broadcast of the 13-minute segment concerning ex-governor Don Siegelman (HR 2/26).

"I have instructed the staff to handle this like we do all the other complaints," Martin said. "We got some 20-odd complaints about it. I've asked the staff to send a letter (to the station) with the complaints attached, asking them to respond to it."

Despite claims that a GOP-engineered conspiracy caused the blackout, the event was caused by a malfunctioning receiver at the station, WHNT general manager Stan Pylant told the Associated Press.

"The receiver failed at the worst possible time, and there's nothing I can do to make some people believe it," he told the AP.

The station showed the story in its entirety during a newscast later Sunday and again Monday, he said.

The "60 Minutes" story suggested that Republican politics was behind Siegelman's prosecution and imprisonment, a claim prosecutors deny. It was unclear just what action the commission can take as it has little say regarding content outside of indecency issues.