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Orlando stations shutting out local candidates

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Orlando stations shutting out local candidates 08/09/1994 FLORIDA -- So many Orlando area broadcasters are refusing local political campaign ads…

FLORIDA — So many Orlando area broadcasters are refusing local political campaign ads that candidates are virtually banned from the airwaves, a county commissioner said in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission in late July.

Fran Pignone, an Orange County Commissioner and candidate for board chairman, sent a protest letter to the FCC saying that broadcasters’ policies to exclude local candidates run against the public interest.

“They seriously limit the ability of local candidates to communicate with the voters on issues of definite concern,” she wrote.

Nine of 12 Orlando area radio stations and two of five television stations refuse local political ads, according to an attachment to Pignone’s letter to the FCC.

Broadcasters are required to carry federal campaign ads, but have not been required to carry state or local campaign ads since 1991. If a station does accept state or local ads, it must offer equal time to all candidates. Political campaigns are also entitled to the lowest available ad rates 45 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. The Orange County Board of County Commissioners primary is slated for Sept. 8.

The large number of discount ad spots a station would be required to provide could put it out of business, said Bill LeGrand, vice president of sales for Paxson Broadcasting, which has four radio stations in the Orlando area. Paxson stations accommodate key races of major interest and those that are hotly contended, LeGrand said.

“If we opened up to all of them, they would eat up 100 percent of our inventory time,” LeGrand said. “They would put us out of business.”

(Letter from Fran Pignone, Orange County Commissioner, to Reed Hundt, Federal Communications Commission chairman (July 27, 1994) (on file with the FCC))

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