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Public TV network can keep candidate out of debate

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    NMU         ALABAMA         Broadcasting         Nov 12, 2002    

Public TV network can keep candidate out of debate

  • Court okays barring of Libertarian gubernatorial candidate from a televised political debate because the candidate did not meet at least 5 percent of voter preference, a standard required by Alabama Public Television.

Alabama Public Television (APT) in Birmingham had the right to legally bar Libertarian gubernatorial candidate John Sophocleus from an Oct. 20 broadcast political debate, according to a U.S. District court ruling Oct. 3 in Montgomery.

APT requires that a candidate who wished to take part in a broadcast political debate must have “obtained at least 5 percent of voter preference in an independent poll conducted by a recognized polling organization,” according to the ruling made by U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson.

Sophocleus held only a 2 percent voter preference at that time of the debate.

Thompson ruled that APT’s right to bar Sophocleus from the political debate is lawful because the 5 percent voter preference standard required by APT is “a reasonable, view-point neutral exercise of journalistic discretion consistent with the First Amendment.”

Mike McKenzie, APT’s public information officer, said the reason for the 5 percent voter preference requisite was to “best produce the debate so candidates had plenty of time to speak and the audience had plenty of time to listen.”

“If a candidate doesn’t meet as much as a 5 percent voter preference, then we are not making the best of the audience’s time,” McKenzie said.

(Alabama Libertarian Party v. Alabama Public Television) LF

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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