The FCC has issued “informal, oral advice” to the Missouri Broadcasters Association declaring that in its opinion Frazier Glenn Miller is not a qualified bona-fide candidate for the US Senate and therefore is not covered under the same broadcast access rules afforded to genuine candidates.
Miller, running as an independent, declared himself to be a write-in candidate for Senate and began running radio advertisements that many found to be insensitive. Since advertisements from a federal candidate cannot be edited, Missouri broadcasters did not want to be forced to carry Miller’s message, and asked the FCC for a ruling on whether he was a qualified candidate or not. The broadcasters’ position was supported and carried forward by State AG Chris Koster, MBA and Zimmer Radio of Mid-Missouri Inc. Communications law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice had a major hand in the proceeding.
The crux of the argument is that Miller must be able to show that he is running a viable campaign. That includes engaging in the activities generally associated with running a statewide run for office, including things like maintaining a campaign office, employing a campaign staff, making appearances before the general public, etc.
Describing the FCC response, which came from the Media Bureau Policy Division, MBA stated, “The advice was that, on the facts and pleading submitted by all parties, including Mr. Miller, it would not be unreasonable for Missouri broadcasting stations to determine that Miller is not a bona fide write-in candidate and therefore, Missouri broadcasters may deny him access to broadcast their stations.”
In the same advisory to Missouri broadcasters, MBA continued, “This advice is an affirmation of the position taken by the MBA, Attorney General Koster and Zimmer Broadcasting and the FCC, prior to the filing of our petition. It confirms that a broadcaster who decides that Miller has not established himself to be a bona fide write-in candidate would not be acting unreasonably. Therefore, in our view, a Missouri broadcaster would not be held liable for having denied access retroactively.”
MBA said that the decision supported its contention that Miller had failed to demonstrate the viability of his candidacy, and concluded, “Miller is merely attempting to use broadcasters as a megaphone for his message, and broadcasters are not required to allow themselves to be used as a purveyor of personal views merely upon the claim of candidacy for federal office.”
RBR-TVBR observation: The ruling here has nothing to do with the content of Miller’s ads, although that content was certainly a large factor in motivating MBA’s strong objection to putting them on the airwaves. It is more about not choking the airwaves with ads from individuals who simply declare candidacy in order to force their views onto the public, at lowest unit charge no less.
Miller is perfectly free to continue to try to acquire air time. But station licensees are not forced to carry his message, nor give him a discount if they decide to run his material.