Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club” and Telepictures’ “TMZ” have both asked for and received FCC blessings on an news/information exemption from the equal time rule regarding broadcasts involving candidates for office, although CBN’s is a partial exemption. The FCC’s earlier decision that “Entertainment Tonight” so qualifies was pivotal, particularly in “TMZ’s” case, since it is a highly similar program. “700 Club,” which contains a newscast of interests to its viewers running for about a quarter of the show’s 60-minute length, asked that the entire program be exempted, but if not that at least the news/info portion be exempted. The FCC selected the latter course, without explanation.
RBR/TVBR observation: The FCC has traditionally set the bar rather low for this exemption. Howard Stern used to have it. As long as references to or interviews with political candidates are aired on the basis of newsworthiness rather than the desire to promote or hinder the candidate’s electoral prospects, the exemption has generally been granted.