With the party conventions about to begin, the election season is kicking into full gear and candidates are increasingly taking to the airwaves. Political candidates' use of the media can often pose challenging questions for stations as they navigate the FCC's political rules pertaining to political candidate advertising rates, equal opportunities and sponsorship identification.
Earlier this year in May, the FCC released two rulings concerning the Commission's equal opportunities rule. Under that rule, whenever a candidate makes "use" of a station, his or her opponent has the right to request a similar use of the station. However, equal opportunity rights do not apply in situations where the candidate is featured as part of a bona fide newscast, bona fide news interview, bona fide news documentary or bona fide news event covered on the spot.
Over time, the Commission has clarified what appearances fall into each of these categories. In one of the May decisions, the FCC found in a declaratory ruling that entertainment tabloid show "TMZ" qualified as a bona fide newscast. The decision is in line with past FCC decisions, which found "Entertainment Tonight" and the now-defunct show "Hard Copy" to be bona fide newscasts for the purposes of the rule.
The second decision held that certain portions of "The 700 Club" program, broadcast on 100 television stations throughout the United States and several cable channels, qualified for exemption from the equal opportunity rule. While the FCC determined the entire program was not exempt, it found the newscast portions of the program to qualify under the bona fide newscast exception, and the news interview portions of the program to qualify under the bona fide news interview exception.