Pro-Israel group challenges NBC over coverage of Lebanon war
New York — Charging that WNBC-TV in New York presented one-sided coverage of the recent war in Lebanon, Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI) has filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deny renewal of the station's broadcast license.
AFSI accused the station - as well as the parent NBC organization - of violating the Fairness Doctrine, which requires broadcasters to present contrasting viewpoints in addressing ''controversial issues of public importance.''
At a news conference at Freedom House, AFSI Director Peter E. Goldman said his group is also filing petitions against seven other New York state NBC-affiliated stations. In February, AFSI filed a similar petition against several New England NBC affiliates, but Mr. Goldman says the petitions were denied on a technicality and have just been rewritten and refiled.
Besides WNBC, AFSI has petitioned to deny the licenses of WNYT, Albany; WGR, Buffalo; WGRB, Schenectady; WSTM, Syracuse; WROC, Rochester; WICZ, Binghamton; and WKTV, Utica.
AFSI, founded in 1971, contends in its petitions that during 600 minutes of reporting on the Lebanese conflict between June 4, 1982, and Aug. 31, 1982, by NBC Nightly News, less than 30 minutes were devoted to airing Israeli perspectives, factual background information, or objective points of view.
Lawrence K. Grossman, president of NBC News since May 1, issued the following response:
''We are confident that the AFSI petition will be dismissed, as were the petitions filed by the same organization in February against the license renewals of several NBC affiliates in New England.''
He asserted that ''far from being 'biased' or 'distorted,' NBC's news coverage of events during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, including coverage of political and military problems within the Middle East, was accurate , thorough, and balanced. In fact, network coverage of the war in Lebanon was praised by the Columbia Journalism Review, which found that 'overall balance was maintained. . . .' It concluded that 'for performance under fire . . . viewers could have asked for little more.' ''
Mr. Grossman has also announced, however, that he is forming an NBC news editorial board that will meet daily with executive producers of NBC News programs to determine the editorial direction of the division.