ABC Details Campaign Coverage

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Disney says that Washington should judge the network's coverage of political issues in news and public affairs by the fact that its 10 owned and operated stations are ranked either one or two in the local news ratings.

"There can be no better measure of whether our local managers have been making the right decisions regarding the community relevance of their local newscasts," Disney President Bob Iger wrote to FCC Chairman Michael Powell and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman and long-time campaign reformer John McCain.

The pair had called on each of the country's top broadcast executives to boost their coverage of this year's elections. Broadcasters "should raise the level of public discourse during the election season ahead," they wrote in letters to Iger, News Corp. President Peter Chernin, NAB President Eddie Fritts, Viacom co-president Leslie Moonves, and NBC Chairman Bob Wright.

Iger said that coverage decisions are made by local management and vary from market to market, but it pointed to specific efforts, including WPVI Philadelphia's sponsorship and broadcast of debates, and KFSN Fresno's decision to air five minutes of candidate-centered discourse in the 30 days before an election.

Iger also said that ABC is beginning to use its station's digital multicast's to supplement  news and public affairs output with additional coverage or real-time continuous election results.

"We hope that all public policy makers [copies of the letter were sent to key congressmen, senators and the other FCC commissioners] will exercise great care in considering any proposals that would disrupt or inhibit consumer access to the extraordinary political coverage and other local news and public affairs programming provided by ABC Owned Television Stations and other broadcasters."

McCain said last week that if broadcasters don't volunteer to do more, he may revived efforts to mandate free airtime for candidates.

Fox and NAB are both in the process of crafting their responses. NBC had returned calls at press time.

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