or else face the obligation to give rival candidates equal time? The answer is yes, under 47 U.S.C. § 315(a):
If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station: Provided, That such licensee shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast under the provision of this section. No obligation is hereby imposed under this subsection upon any licensee to allow the use of its station by any such candidate. Appearance by a legally qualified candidate on any ---
(1) bona fide newscast,
(2) bona fide news interview,
(3) bona fide news documentary (if the appearance of the candidate is incidental to the presentation of the subject or subjects covered by the news documentary), or
(4) on-the-spot coverage of bona fide news events (including but not limited to political conventions and activities incidental thereto),
shall not be deemed to be use of a broadcasting station within the meaning of this subsection....
Entertainment programming is not included within any of these exceptions; and the FCC and the courts have ruled that appearances as actors or entertainers are covered as "use [of] a broadcasting station." See, e.g., Paulsen v. FCC, 491 F.2d 887 (9th Cir. 1974) (entertainment appearances by comedian and jocular Presidential candidate Pat Paulsen); In re Weiss, 58 F.C.C.2d 342 (1976) (broadcast of movies in which Ronald Reagan had acted); In re Culpepper, 99 F.C.C.2d 778 (same); 100 F.C.C.2d 1476 ¶ 34(d) (1984) ("If an actor becomes a legally qualified candidate for public office, his appearances on telecasts of his movies thereafter will be uses, entitling his opponents to equal time, if the actor is identifiable in the movies"); id. ¶ 34(e) (taking the same view for other broadcast appearances, for instance by "the host of a teenage dance show," "a radio disc jockey," and a minister on a religious program); see also Branch v. FCC, 824 F.2d 37 (D.C. Cir. 1987) ("equal opportunities" requirement is triggered when a TV reporter continues to appear on the TV program after announcing his candidacy for city council, even though he had long been a regular reporter, and even though his reporting was not directly related to his candidacy; none of the news exceptions were found to apply).
The FCC's repeal of the Fairness Doctrine does not affect this, since this is a Congressionally enacted statute that's separate from the Fairness Doctrine and outside the FCC's power to repeal. Arguments that entertainment should be treated like news coverage won't carry the day in court, since the statute clearly limits the exceptions to news coverage. (The "Provided, That such licensee shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast under the provision of this section" language simply means that the broadcaster generally may not restrict what candidates say in various contexts. It does not exempt entertainment appearances from triggering the rule, even though those appearances were originally subject to the broadcaster's control.)
Related Posts (on one page):
- More on How We've Supposedly Lost Our Traditional Free Speech Rights:
- The History of Broadcast Content Regulation:
- Are We Losing Free Speech Protections?
- Must NBC Stop Running Law & Order Episodes With Fred Thompson if He Announces His Candidacy,