Note: Since this was written circa 2004 -- the Federal Communications Commission has favored the truncation of what we believe is the clear sense of the Reasonable Access Law. The law says that FCC licensed radio and TV stations must run the ads of Federal Candidates. The FCC is now favoring interpretations which say that the federal candidate must be in the "primary geographical area" of the radio station's listening audience. We at and our allies plan to bring litigation to restore the Reasonable Access Law to the clear sense of the language as passed by Congress, and we still stand by the explanation below.

WHY the FCC licensed Major Radio and Television Stations MUST run the ads of Federal Candidates

To understand WHY the major radio stations must run these Congressional campaign radio ads, it is necessary to understand the "Reasonable Access Law" and the "Becker vs. FCC"  decision in 1996 by the Washington D.C. Circuit Court.

This law is meant to protect freedom of speech for federal candidates (such as congressional candidates) and their supporters -- to raise the issues which the candidate and his supporters feel are important.  The law requires that FCC (Federal Communications Commission) licensed radio and TV stations must run the ads of Federal Candidates in the day slots, or blocks of time, that the federal candidate specifies. Provided obscenity and profanity are avoided by the federal candidate -- the FCC licensed radio station is NOT allowed to censor the campaign ad for content, nor to move it into other day parts (or time blocks) it chooses  -- it must adhere to the schedule bought by the federal candidate and his campaign. (This last rule was the whole point of the Becker vs. FCC ruling in 1996, in which candidate Becker of Atlanta, Georgia won against the FCC itself and 300 major radio and television stations who came in on the side of the FCC to try and censor Becker's ads by putting them exclusively between midnight and 5 AM. The D.C. circuit court ruled that the FCC licensed station HAD to run the federal candidate ads IN THE TIME SLOT OF THE CANDIDATE's CHOOSING. They could not embargo his or her ads to times of the day where there are few listeners, or less listeners, such as between midnight and 5 AM, as the station in Atlanta was trying to do. In other words, this is a solemn legal obligation of an FCC licensed station -- which is merely LEASING the PUBLIC airwaves. It is not a merely public service by the station to insure robust and unfettered public debate on the issues of the day -- it is the station's solemn legal obligation.

In other words -- if, for instance, a federal candidate, such as myself, buys three one minute radio ads on a drive time show with a local host -- such as Pat Barry on WKRC radio in Cincinnati -- and if that candidate buys the time on the last day of the election of 2002, Monday, November 4th -- then the FCC licensed station, such as WKRC cannot alter the content of the radio ad, its management cannot refuse to play the ads,  must give the three ads a reasonable spacing throughout the program such as they would extend to any business customer (this reasonably spacing of ads is called "minimal separation" in the media business), and --- MOST IMPORTANTLY -- the FCC licensed station can absolutely NOT move such federal candidate radio ads to another time block other than the time slot bought by the candidate. For instance, the station could not move a federal candidate's ads bought in the Pat Barry Show (which aired in 2002 in drive time on weekdays -- 3 PM to 6 PM), to a non-drive time program with a non-local host -- such as to the "Glenn Beck" program which aired from 9 AM to 12 noon weekdays on the same station.

The law is even stronger than that.  The law requires, during the last sixty days before the election, that the radio ads be sold to the federal candidate at the lowest rate such time was sold to any business, any issue group, or any individual in the same time slot for that year. Finally, if the FCC licensed station refuses to play the radio ads as paid for and ordered by the candidate and his campaign -- the federal candidate can file for ownership of the station's FCC license.

This is why the FCC licensed television and radio stations must play federal candidate ads, such as the ads our campaign has aired with the support of people from many, many states around the USA. Based on our experience, and the experience of everyone who watches the major media --- these "advocates of free speech" would definitely and absolutely censor such ads as my campaign ran in the 2002 election campaign -- if they possibly could. How do we know? They censor such information for the rest of the year.

The above is a brief explanation of this "Reasonable Access" law and the Becker vs. FCC decision which bolstered it in 1996.


Last Updated
03/30/2007 01:44 AM




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