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FCC Rules in Favor of Anti-Abortion Candidate on TV Ads FCC Rules in Favor of Anti-Abortion Candidate on TV Ads

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FCC Rules in Favor of Anti-Abortion Candidate on TV Ads

November 1, 2012

Updated: 4:30 p.m.

The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that a Washington, D.C., television station must agree to run advertisements from anti-abortion activist and independent presidential candidate Randall Terry, who is seeking to air ads in neighboring West Virginia.

Washington's CBS affiliate station WUSA refused to run ads from Terry, where he is on the presidential ballot, because the station said it does not serve West Virginia.

In an order released on Wednesday, the FCC's Media Bureau, however, dismissed WUSA's claim. The bureau said that WUSA is required to allow Terry to run ads on the station because he is a legitimate candidate for president in the state and the station's signals reach more than a "de minimis portion" of the population of West Virginia. Stations must give "reasonable" access to their airwaves to legitimate candidates who are running in areas served by those stations' over-the-air signals. The FCC found that WUSA's signals reach at least 3 percent of West Virginia's population.

Given that WUSA's signal "covers more than a de minimis number of people located in the jurisdiction in which Terry is a legally qualified candidate, we believe that it is unreasonable for the station to refuse to provide reasonable access to Terry," the order said.

Some stations have resisted running Terry's ads, which include graphic pictures of aborted fetuses, but have been required to do so based on current law. Stations in Oklahoma were forced to run Terry's ads earlier this year because he was listed as a candidate on the state's Democratic presidential primary ballot. Stations in Colorado and Illinois, however, successfully blocked the ads Terry tried to show during the Super Bowl by arguing to the FCC that he was not a legitimate candidate in those states. Terry has run some ads on West Virginia stations.

"This will be a really gross ad," communications lawyer Andrew Jay Schwartzman, who used to head the Media Access Project, said of ads Terry is seeking to run on WUSA. Despite this, "the highest form of citizenship is one citizen asking other citizens for their vote. That right extends to Randall Terry, whom I loathe."

WUSA, which serves Washington along with suburbs in Maryland and Northern Virginia, has indicated that it will appeal the Media Bureau's decision to the full FCC.

"WUSA's signal does not reach West Virginia, and we disagree with the decision by the FCC staff to require us to broadcast advertisements for Mr. Terry, who is not running for office in Washington D.C, Maryland or Virginia. We will be asking the FCC to reconsider its decision," WUSA President and General Manager Mark Burdett said in a statement.

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