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FCC: Pappas Issue Still Open

Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau chief Ken Feree said Friday that the commission has made "no decision regarding the equal-time requirements in the matter of Pappas Telecasting [Cos.]."

Pappas' suggestion to the contrary in a press release is "completely false," according to FCC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher.

Pappas Telecasting made an offer of up to $325,000 in free airtime to California state and local Republican candidates and up to $125,000 to Democrats in the state. When some of the opposing candidates asked for equal time, Pappas said it had checked with its lawyers and the FCC and that, according to California law, it only had to offer them the same time at the lowest unit rate, not free.

That drew protests from media activist group Free Press and a complaint to the FCC by John Dingell (D-Mich.), who asked the FCC whether giving airtime to one candidate but making the other buy it was in the public interest.

In an Oct. 28 release defending the contribution, company Chairman Harry Pappas said: "It was confirmed to Pappas Telecasting's lawyer by the FCC's Political Office that such non-monetary contributions, as permitted under California law, are equal in value to the lowest unit rate for the amount and class of time utilized by candidates."

Ferree said the commission would act quickly on Dingell's complaint.