Media Bureau rejects candidate equal opportunity complaint

The FCC Media Bureau rejected a complaint Oct. 26 from the California Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s camp that an appearance by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” entitled its candidate to equal time.

The Angelides for Governor Campaign filed a complaint Oct. 12 on behalf of candidate Phil Angelides seeking 15 minutes and 41 seconds of airtime on NBC stations around the state as a result of Schwarzenegger on the show.

The California stations named in the complaint included: KGET-TV in Bakersfield; KNVN-TV in Chico; KIEM-TV in Eureka; KSEE-TV in Fresno; KNBC in Los Angeles; KMIR-TV in Palm Desert; KCRA-TV in Sacramento; KSBW in Salinas; KNSD in San Diego; KNTV in San Jose; and KSBY in San Luis Obispo.

In its complaint to the FCC, the Angelides campaign argued that the show was not a bona fide news program, but rather an entertainment show and therefore not entitled to equal opportunities exemptions. Further, it stated that host Jay Leno had “promoted and supported” Schwarzenegger’s political career and that the governor’s appearance was not tied to any newsworthy event.

In rejecting the complaint, the Media Bureau found that news interview segments on the show fall under “the bona fide news interview exemption under Section 315(a)(2),” and that the interviews are “exempt from equal opportunities.”

Regarding the newsworthiness of the Schwarzenegger appearance, the Media Bureau quoted an earlier commission decision involving the “Donahue” show: “undefinedt would seem elemental that Congress [when adopting the news exemptions] contemplated interviews with elected officials and candidates for elected office as newsworthy subject matter.”

The Media Bureau rejected the Angelides campaign assertion that Leno has a history of promoting and supporting Schwarzenegger, stating that the allegation is “based on little more than speculation.”

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