Conservative talk radio leader KMJ radio may have to provide free air time to candidates running for Clovis City Council, according to legal experts.
Candidate Diane Pearce guest-hosted for Ray Appleton on KMJ (580 AM/105.9 FM) this week. She has frequently made TV and radio appearances as a political analyst — she is also president of the Fresno County and City Republican Women Federated.
But sitting on the other side of the microphone could trigger equal time requirements benefitting the other contenders.
“It’s really quite clear-cut,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior counselor to the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society. “It’s not a bona fide news interview because she’s not the interviewee. She’s the interviewer.”
The requirement dates back to the 1934 Communications Act, providing bona fide political candidates equal time on broadcast outlets using public airwaves, like KMJ. There are exceptions, such as for news interviews. However, because Pearce is serving as a show host, that limitation would not apply.
A similar situation happened during the 2016 presidential campaign when Donald Trump guest-hosted “Saturday Night Live.” Other candidates had to be offered equal time.
Also in Politics 101:
- Candidates need to be proactive to request their equal time.
- Did Brandi Orth want state Secretary of State job?
- Victor Davis Hanson to serve on presidential education commission.
Candidates Need to Request Equal Time
Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias brought up the equal time point on Twitter.
Thanks for your interest in the political landscape on the east side of Willow. As you know, we are well outside the 45 day window before an election when your comment would have relevance in terms of “equal time.” ?
— Diane Pearce (@DianePearceTCB) December 22, 2020
Pearce responded by saying the hosting appearance is outside “the 45-day window” when equal time rule would be triggered.
That is not the case, however.
“The 45 days is not relevant to this question. That refers to the time period a qualified candidate is entitled to lowest unit (advertising) rate,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a Washington, DC-based good government group.
KMJ program director Blake Taylor said he initially interpreted the law as a 45-day window.
“After consulting with (KMJ owner) Cumulus Corporate counsel, it appears that I was wrong. It was not malicious, just a simple misinterpretation of the rule on my part. All of the candidates are welcome on KMJ,” Taylor said in an email.
For equal opportunities on the air to be invoked, the candidate has one week to make the request.
Other candidates for the March 2, 2021 Clovis election include incumbents Lynne Ashbeck and Vong Mouanoutoua as well as Herman Nagra and Noha Elbaz.
Other Candidates May Seek Airtime
Mouanoutoua and Nagra said they would explore their options.
Other candidates did not reply back by time of publication.
The equal time does not have to be in a three-hour hosting block, such as Pearce’s gig this week. It could be in the form of advertising spots in an equal time period. Presumably, because Pearce did not pay to guest host, those advertising spots would have to be provided at no cost as well.
Three hours hosting a radio show does not translate into a full three hours of air time for the other candidates. KMJ would only have to offer up time equal to the amount Pearce was directly on the air, excluding commercials and news breaks.
KMJ is the top-rated news/talk radio station in the Fresno area market, according to Inside Radio.
Could Orth Have Been Secretary of State?
Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly chose a replacement for California Secretary of State Alex Padilla when he named Assemblywoman Shirley Weber to the post. Padilla was chosen to fill the remainder of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ term.
Was Fresno County elections clerk Brandi Orth ever interested in the position?
“Thank you for asking but no, I am not interested,” Orth said.
Victor Davis Hanson Appointed to 1776 Commission
National political columnist Victor Davis Hanson, based in the Central Valley, has been appointed to a historical education committee.
President Donald Trump announced last Friday that Hanson will serve on the 1776 Commission, a two-year appointment.
“As our nation approaches its 250th anniversary of glorious Independence, many of America’s school children are tragically being taught to hate our founding, hate our history, and hate our country. This must stop,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said last week in an email statement. “The 1776 Commission will help ensure that every American child learns that they live in the greatest and most exceptional nation in the history of the world. That is why it is absolutely vital to teach America’s young people all that is inspiring and unifying in our history.”
Hanson is one of many conservative commentators on the commission, which includes Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College in Michigan and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.