FCC: Telepictures Productions' TMZ Is a News Program
Federal Communications Commission Also Rules that Interview Portions of 700 Club Are Exempt from Equal Opportunities Clause
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/2/2008 9:03:00 AM
The Federal Communications Commission ruled that Telepictures Productions' syndicated magazine show, TMZ, can feature candidates for public office without automatically invoking the FCC rule that requires stations to offer up airtime to other candidates. But it warned that stations were still on the hook if an appearance was deemed to be for the purpose of advantaging one candidate over the other.
The FCC requires that any licensee that features a legally qualified candidate for public office on its air must offer the same opportunity to other candidates, but there is an exception for "bona fide" news programs.
The commission ruled in 1988 that Entertainment Tonight was such a program, and Telepictures sought the same ruling for its syndicated magazine show.
"Based on the record before us," the FCC said, "we conclude that TMZ does qualify as a bona fide newscast because it reports news of some area of current events in a manner similar to more traditional newscasts. In addition, we have no evidence before us of bad faith or unreasonableness on the part of Telepictures."
But the agency also pointed out that the stations, not Telepictures, are ultimately responsible for making the call as to whether a particular appearance by a candidate is news. "The licensees of the stations on which the subject program airs remain ultimately responsible for a determination to air a particular program and should not do so for the political advantage of a candidate for public office," it added.
Telepictures assured the FCC that it made its calls on candidate appearances based on newsworthiness and not on any political agenda.
The FCC also ruled Friday that the news segments and interviews on Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club -- which airs on TV stations as well as ABC Family -- are also a bona fide news program exempt from the equal opportunities rule.
That show is hosted by Pat Robertson, himself once a presidential candidate.
But the commission stopped short of declaring the entire program exempt. CBN had asked that the whole show be exempt, but absent that, it wanted the interviews and news segments to get the exemption. The FCC chose the latter.
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