The FCC yesterday said WUSA Washington must air political spots from activist Randall Terry. The reasonable access requirements for federal candidates are encoded into the Communications Act, and there is only so much the FCC can do in applying the statute in a political landscape that is far more complex than those who drafted these provisions likely ever contemplated. With election season nearly over, and many stations sold out of airtime through the election, the immediate impact of the decision will be limited. It is a safe bet, however, that the underlying issue will continue to haunt future elections.
Reasonable access requires broadcasters to make reasonable amounts of time available to candidates for federal office — in all classes and dayparts on all commercial broadcast stations. With the expected onslaught of political advertising coming up in most battleground states, stations fearful of having to devote all of their commercial time to election advertising wonder just how much time is reasonable?