(FCC NEWSReport No. MM 96-27, October 4, 1996)

The Commission today denied a complaint against the major television networks by RossPerot, presidential candidate of the Reform Parties, concluding that he is not entitled to "equal time" in connection with a variety of network appearances by President Bill Clinton and his Republican Party opponent Bob Dole.  The Commission also found that each network had offered to sell Perot amounts of prime time programming sufficient to meet their  obligations under the "reasonable access" provisions of the Communications Act.

Section 315 of the Communications Act requires broadcasters to provide equal opportunities to a candidate's opponents when it permits that candidate to appear.  In his complaint, Perot contended that ABC, CBS, and NBC failed to provide him with equal opportunities related to Clinton and Dole appearances during their respective presidential nominating conventions.  Perot also contended that he should be provided with equal opportunities in response to Clinton and Dole appearances in the upcoming presidential debates.  Perot also claimed that he is entitled to equal opportunities in response to recent appearances by Clinton and Dole on the ABC program "20/20" and certain programming by Fox involving presentations by Clinton and Dole.  In denying Perot's complaint, the Commission noted that Section 315(a) exempts several types of bona fide news programming from the equal opportunities requirement imposed in that Section.  The Commission found that the programs complained of qualified as bona fide news programming under 315(a) and that equal opportunities were not, therefore, required.

Perot also alleged that each of the networks denied him reasonable access, in violation of the Communications Act.   Section 312(a)(7) of the Act requires Broadcasters to provide or sell "reasonable" amounts of  time to legally qualified candidates.  Perot said he asked to purchase eight one-half hour blocks of prime time from each network -- one half-hour slot per week beginning September 8, continuing through the week of October 27 plus time on election eve. Each of the networks offered Perot a package of time, including a half hour of prime time in the month before the election.   The Commission concluded that the networks had properly balanced Perot's request with their concerns regarding substantial program disruption, and that the amount of time offered by the networks satisfied their "reasonable access" obligations.  

Action by the Commission October 3, 1996, by Memorandum Opinion and Order (FCC 96-401).  Chairman Hundt, Commissioners Quello, Ness and Chong.