FCC: WUSA Must Make Ad Time Available to Anti-Abortion Candidate
Says station coverage in West Virginia, where Terry is legal candidate, is sufficient to trigger political time obligations
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/1/2012 9:05:36 PM
FCC rules require stations to "allow reasonable access to or to permit the purchase of reasonable amounts of time for the use of a broadcast station... by a legally qualified candidate for federal elective office."
WUSA had denied Terry's request for access, saying that its signal reached a de minimis portion of that state. "[t]he issue is not where the FCC predicts that our signal reaches under an abstract interpretation of the propagation curves in its rules. The issue is whether WUSA puts an actual signal, in real life terms, over more than a negligible number of viewers in West Virginia."
Gannett had said in response to the complaint, which was filed Oct. 19. "Because of terrain in an intervening mountainous region, our signal does not reach more than a negligible number of viewers in West Virginia, if it reaches any at all. Accordingly, we have no obligation to broadcast Mr. Terry's advertisement."
Gannett also said that commission staffers had communicated to them repeatedly that political broadcasting obligations do not apply where coverage is de minimis.
The FCC's Media Bureau disagreed that the station did not reach enough of West Virginia to trigger reasonable access requirements, saying that according to its FCC contour map, the station reached almost 3% of the state's population. "We do not think this percentage can be considered de minimis."
"We conclude that it would be unreasonable for the Station not to provide reasonable access to Terry because Terry is a legally qualified candidate in West Virginia and the Station's digital noise limited service contour ("NLSC") encompasses more than a de minimis portion of the population of West Virginia," the Media Bureau said in granting the complaint.
The FCC denied Terry's access complaint back in February, when NBC's WMAQ refused to run his ad in the Super Bowl. In that case, the FCC said Terry had not made a reasonable showing that he was a candidate.
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