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FCC must act on personal attack, political editorializing rules

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Aug 10, 2000    

FCC must act on personal attack, political editorializing rules

  • The Federal Communications Commission has until September 29 to justify its rules requiring television and radio stations to offer equal time to political candidates endorsed on the air and rebuttal time to persons criticized in broadcasts.

Broadcasters hope that their battle against the Federal Communications Commission rules requiring them to air contrary opinions will soon come to an end.

On July 24 the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ( D.C. Cir.) told the FCC that it has until September 29 to resolve the issues concerning the rules on personal attack and political editorializing. The order came after the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio-Television News Directors Association reminded the judges that on August 3, 1999, the court had given the FCC six months to decide whether it would keep or abandon the rules.

The court said that if the FCC continues to avoid the court order, the NAB and RTNDA “can seek whatever action they deem appropriate from the court at that time.” The court could also give the FCC another deadline or could rule on the issue itself.

The rules are the only surviving remnants of the Fairness Doctrine, which the FCC abandoned as “unconstitutional on its face” in 1987. The rules are intended to ensure that the public hears many sides to an issue, requiring broadcasters to provide equal time to qualified political candidates if the broadcasters endorse candidates for political office. The rules also require broadcasters to offer free “response time” to individuals whose character, integrity and honesty have been attacked in a broadcast.

(Radio-Television News Directors Ass’n v. FCC; Media Counsel: Daniel Troy, Washington, D.C.) MT

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