Rick Seibert asked for advice from other broadcasters on how to deal with his political equal time dilemma. RBR readers have come through.
Assuming your PD’s show constitutes a "use" of airtime and you owe the opposing candidate time (your att’y must believe it does), you only owe time for the actual amount of time your PD’s voice was on the air. His shows that triggered the obligation may total 600 minutes, but what was the actual amount of time his voice was heard (vs spots, music, etc.)?
Airchecks and an intern with a stopwatch could come in handy. Also, are you not free to suggest to the competing candidate that you will welcome him, because you plan to publicize his "use of airtime," and broadcast 120 second editorials to illuminate the seeming nonsense of being required to give up so much time to him under these absurd circumstances? And that you will run that editorial in each of the ten breaks you will require him to take; the same breaks your PD was required to take? And that this bizarre situation might possibly gain a lot of headlines that don’t reflect too well on him? You might turn this into a publicity stunt for the station while teaching the opposing candidate a lesson.
Warning: I am not an attorney, but I do like to play. Better ask a real one first!
In response to Rick Siebert’s request for ideas on how to handle the school board candidates who are demanding equal time on his station. I’m no attorney, so I’d run this past him or her first.
If I were in your shoes Rick, I would schedule a meeting at your station inviting all of the candidates. Once there, I would tell them that “I want to be fair to you and to this station, so I have come up with a resolution to our problem of equal time. I’d like to offer you each a free $____ schedule to run on this station. This will give you a solid platform to get your message out to the voters. I can include reasonable production for your commercial and the spots will air in a standard ROS schedule. In order to accept this deal, you must sign-off that this schedule satisfies any rights you may have to equal time.”
You’ll need to decide before the meeting what a fair dollar amount would be.
Denis J. LeClair