Dave Defines the Exceptions to the Equal Time Clause That Has Shut Him Up
Negotiations have fallen through with my political opponents and it now appears that I will be off the air- but roaming around behind the scenes of KIT- for at least the next two months. It’s dis
appointing but not unexpected and certainly prescribed for by law.
I am being taken off air by station management because KIT cannot afford to absorb the significant cost of giving away “equal time” as called for by the Communications Act of 1934.
Here’s how it works: for easy calculation, let’s say I make $12 an hour. That means the company pays me 20 cents per minute to be on the air. On the Morning Show we sell commercials for anywhere from 40-60 dollars per minute or more depending on the contractual circumstances. That means if I broadcast for 10 minutes, the company owes me two bucks....but at the same time they would owe EACH opponent the equivalent of $400 to $600 worth of advertising air time. The handwriting on the wall on that one is pretty big! As of Thursday, at least one of my city council opponents is requesting equal time for every minute I’m on air -whether talking local election politics or not- so there is no recourse for management but to pull me off the air. We’ll talk later about whether that is a strategically wise move or not but first...
There are four exceptions to the Equal Time Clause. The first is if the air-time was in a documentary. KIT playing “the life and limited times of Dave Ettl” would NOT require an equal time arrangement. Chances are pretty good that WON’T be happening. Most listeners already know my life story and they know it’s not that exciting! Heck, I wouldn’t even listen to that!
The second exception is bona fide news interview. Example: an interviewer like Lance Tormey or Mike Bastinelli might say “Councilman Ettl, you voted against the 2/3 majority for tax increases going to the ballot by councilmanic action. Now the signature gathering process has begun. Where do you stand on the 2/3 for taxes measure?” That is a bona fide news interview and would NOT result in an equal time allotment. There’s a pretty good chance I will appear on KIT in that capacity in the next couple of months since I’m still on council and have “newsworthy” status as an elected spokesman. Since KIT is a quality news operation seeking all sides of every story, there is a good chance that my opponents will appear in this capacity as well.
The third exception is a scheduled newscast. If a portion of a news interview or audio reaction gathered from me by a reporter on any subject is included in a story in of of our KIT top or bottom of the hour newscasts that would NOT result in equal time. Both I and my opponents could find ourselves on KIT in this regard.
And finally, the fourth exception is an on-the-spot news event such as me going on air live coming out of a special hearing or meeting with newsworthy information. In all four of these cases the equal-time rule is not valid.
Since 1983, political debates not hosted by the media station are considered news events, thus may include only major-party candidates without having to offer air time to minor-party or independent candidates. Talk shows and other regular news programming from syndicators, such as Entertainment Tonight, are declared exempt from the rule by the FCC on a case-on-case basis, however a KIT sponsored debate would require the invite for participation by all the candidates.
In closing, the equal time clause applies to me as well. If one of my opponents was given a few commercials on another station, I would be entitled to request and receive the same number of commercials as he did. Of course we are all free to BUY as many commercials as we want as long as the stations have available inventory! Now you know more than you ever wanted to know, right? Welcome to my world!
Watch for blog posts, reaction and audio commentary on twitter, our face book page and website in the campaign days to come. Thanks!