FCC: No More Equal Time Requirements for Political Campaign Supporters Over Our Public Airwaves.

May 19, 2014

The 2014 FCC has now spoken [PDF] in response to a complaint filed by my not-for-profit, the Media Action Center (MAC). Unfortunately, their response comes as little surprise.

It might, however, come as a surprise to the 1972 FCC. That year, the Federal Communications Commission discussed a ruling that became known as the "Zapple Doctrine". The rule extended the federal agency's interpretation of the equal time provisions, Section 315 of the Communications Act, to apply to supporters of candidates, as well as candidates themselves. If airtime was granted to a candidate over the public airwaves, equal time had to be made available to his or her opponent, if it was requested.
Zapple expanded the equal time provision to apply to supporters of candidates as well. It only made common sense, as the FCC explained in 1972...
What we were stating in Zapple was simply a common sense application of the statutory scheme. ... If the DNC were sold time for a number of spots, it is difficult to conceive on what basis the licensee could then refuse to sell comparable time to the RNC. Or, if during a campaign the latter were given a half-hour of free time to advance its cause, could a licensee fairly reject the subsequent request of the DNC that it be given a comparable opportunity? Clearly, these examples deal with exaggerated, hypothetical situations that would never arise. No licensee would try to act in such an arbitrary fashion.
"Exaggerated, hypothetical situations that would never arise?" Really? "No licensee would try to act in such an arbitrary fashion"?
Hey, 1972 FCC, please meet the 2014 FCC.