At press time, Visalia, Calif.-based Pappas Telecasting Cos. was under more fire for its in-kind contribution of airtime on its TV stations to state and local candidates, primarily Republican.
House Commerce Committee ranking member John Dingell has asked the FCC to investigate and get back to him by Nov. 1.
The move drew that letter, as well as complaints from local legislators, after opposing candidates asked for equal free time and were told they only qualified for the same amount of time at the lowest unit rate.
Pappas had vetted the campaign contributions with its lawyers and the FCC, according to Pappas. Saying the company had a history of supporting candidates of both parties, Chairman/CEO Harry Pappas said "the central truth is that Pappas Telecasting is exercising its free-speech rights and our right to make contributions."
In his letter, Dingell said that "the practice of a licensee using the public airwaves to support certain candidates over others raises serious public interest concerns." Dingell is also concerned that the FCC apparently sanctioned the practice, or at least found nothing illegal about it.