Last winter, there was a leftyblogger conference in downtown Saint Paul.
Someone must have run a session on how to play investigative reporter. ”Minnesota Observer”, writing at “Cucking Stool”, thinks she’s onto something.
Let’s read the story…
D’oh. Not that link It’s a dead link. Because MNob had to pull the story down and retool it just a tad.
But retool she did – and it finally ended up at this link…I think.
Yes! It’s there!
Spot [leftybloggers have trouble using their real names] has often jousted with St. Cloud State University professor of the dismal science King Banaian over matters of economic policy here at the Cucking Stool.
Spot “jousts” with King in the same way the Washington Generals “joust” with the Globetrotters. But I digress.
What I want to talk about today is something a bit different, and a bit more personal to the professor: the Communications Act of 1934. Specifically section 315 of the Act and its equal opportunity requirement on a broadcaster, say a radio station. The Act requires that
If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station
I remember having to learn this bit of law ,when I first started in radio (um, 31 years ago this month); it means that radio and TV stations have an obligation to provide the same access to the air to candidates from all parties.
Of course, not every candidate; otherwise, stations would be so busy broadcasting screeds from the Grass Roots party and the Natural Law party that they’d sound like AM950, and have the ratings to match. No, candidates have to be officially-endorsed candidates that are legally on the ballot. Which means they’ve been endorsed and the convention or, if there’ a primary, the election winner.
The equal opportunity requirements contained in section 315 of the Act have been described as “the closest thing in broadcast content regulation to the ‘golden rule.’”
In the same way that I’ve been described as “Original Gangsta”.
The law – or at least the Cliff Notes version of it – aside, MNob cuts to what passes for the chase:
Professor Banaian is running for the Minnesota legislature, seeking to serve the people of House District 15B…He has a website up, he’s on Facebook and the Twitter. He’s pretty obviously a “legally qualified candidate” these days under the Act.
And, as MNob noted (it was apparently why she took down the original post) the DFL doesn’t have a legal candidate yet; they’re duking it out in the primary tomorrow. King will take the winner on in November (and, I suspect, win by 5-10 points).
But he also has a media presence that his opponents do not, one that brings us back to section 315 of the Communications Act of 1934. You see, he also has four hours of air time every single week in the form of the “King Banaian Show” on 1570 AM, some “Business Talk Radio” station here in the Twin Cities…
Remember that phrase – “here in the Twin Cities”.
Candidate Banaian has had hours of air time at his disposal. I don’t see that anyone else in the race appearing on the KYCR schedule.
Well, no. Economist Banaian has had the hours “at his disposal” to do a show about economics. And it is “in the Twin Cities”; not in Saint Cloud, part of which is in 15B.
But MNob is – to a point – correct; he’s a candidate.
On his candidacy website, Facebook, and Twitter he makes no mention of his radio show, and the radio show’s website doesn’t mention his candidacy, which makes me think he knows that all is not entirely according to Hoyle in this scenario.
Not sure how MNob’s crack research skills missed the fact we’ve been plugging King’s show every week for ten months now; King’s been on the air on one Salem Twin Cities station or another for six and a half years, now. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m obviously not mentally equipped to ponder the workings of the law-school-trained mind, but if “according to Hoyle” means “publicized”, King’s pretty much got it covered.
I’m not completely detached from the discussion; I was there for part of it. When Salem Communications switched King’s program from AM1280 to AM1570, to give it one of the most solid, credible local voices in the market for discussing business and economic issues, everyone knew that there was a possibility that King would run for office. The question went up the corporate food chain and came back down positive. King could do his show, but he couldn’t talk about being a candidate; his focus was the same as the station’s; business, not politics.
Still, MNob’s right, so far – since King is a candidate…
…under the law, his care in avoiding discussions of his candidacy doesn’t won’t matter. Most likely, once he received a party unit’s endorsement and certainly once he filed his paperwork, his presence on the air triggered the equal opportunity provisions of the law.
Well, sure, once the Democrats endorse an opponent.
Or it would; if KYCR were heard under any normal, reasonable circumstances, in House District 15B.
Here’s HD15B (warning: PDF file!): it’s eastern Saint Cloud and its southeast environs in Stearns county.
Here’s KYCR’s listening area:
The red circle is the “Local Coverage” pattern – the area where the station can be reliably picked up. it ends a good half a county short of the nearest tip of District 15B. The lavender line is the “Distant Coverage” pattern – where the signal catches a bare corner of 15B, but only if you’re pretty darn motivated and have a good radio or a big antenna. The blue line is the “fringe coverage area”, where you have to be more or less lucky to be able to find the station even if you want to try really hard (and I’m here to testify – it’s real hard to get a station in the fringe area, and harder still to get a meaningful signal).
As you can see, over 90% of the district is in the “Fringe” overage area (Coverage maps explained). Experience says even the red circle is optimistic. Oh, and at night – when half the “equal time” would occur – the range is about 2/3 of what you see on the map above.
I’m not bringing this up for the wonky radio-geek-olicious fun of it; the “Equal Opportunity” rules have limits. One of those limits, as far as the FCC is concerned, is “does a voter in an area have a reasonable chance of being able to pick up the candidate’s broadcast?” If a candidate in Fargo has a show on a station in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky station would not likely be forced to give up equal time; nobody in Fargo will ever hear the candidate’s broadcast, so it can’t influence the election even indirectly.
And, according to a source familiar with this situation, that’s why Banaian’s show continues – because it is impossible for anyone in HD15B to hear it under normal circumstances, except via the internet – and the FCC doesn’t require Equal Opportunity on the Internet, because candidates can produce their own webcasts as easily as Salem can. Probably easier.
So while the Equal Opportunity rule might apply to the race in 15B, it’s a real stretch.
Of course, “stretch” doesn’t mean “impossible”. So if I were KYCR’s program director (and I am not!), I’d say something like this:
MANAGER MITCH: Sure, Zach Dorholt or Carol Lewis, whichever of you wins the primary! You want equal time? You got equal time! You roust yourself up at 7AM on Saturday, and get on the road by 8:30. Get yourself from Saint Cloud to Eagan by 10 or 10:30, because you’re going on the air at 11! You have two hours (the same length as King’s broadcast; we’ll rebroadcast it on Sunday night, just as we do King’s. Oh, unless you’d rather come down here on Sunday night!).
The law requires us to give you two hours of airtime and a microphone. I’ll throw in an engineer to run the board for you, naturally. But making yourself sound good and credible when you’ve probably never done any radio – that’s your job! So you can sit in that room for two hours – it’s actually 88 minutes after commercials – and try not to sound like a cottonmouthed stammering fool. Unless, of course, you’d like to have one of the hosts in the building lead you through a discussion of the district’s issues…oh, wait. All conservatives. Sorry about that.
And you can do that 88 minutes on the air knowing that not a single person in your district will ever hear what you’re saying, unless they really love tinkering with radios, which, let’s be honest, on a summer Saturday in Minnesota, nobody does.
(D’oh, sorry – you might be dimly audible in the southeasternmost tip of the district – the Republican part. Time well spent, folks!)
You’ll be off the air at 1PM, which leaves you back in St. Cloud by about 2:30, if there’s no construction.
So you go ahead and tell your campaign manager “Hey, I’d like to take six hours of prime Saturday campaigning time to drive to Eagan to do a broadcast that absolutely nobody in our district will hear, except maybe a few people who are rock-ribbed Bachmann supporters anyway; nobody from Saint Cloud, the only place we’ll be getting any votes, will be able to hear it even in the unlikely event they’d try”.
And then, you tell that manager you’re going to be doing it every single week until the election is over, or until Banaian decides to take a break from it.
C’mon down! Mi airtime es su airtime!
Perhaps Mr. Dorholt and Ms. Lewis’ campaign managers might want to be in touch with MNob to ask her to quit doing them favors.
Look – it’s entirely possible that King will put his show on hiatus has the campaign switches to its final push for November, and hand it over to guests hosts or do a few months worth of “best ofs”. Campaigning is hard, and I’d imagine King could use a few extra hours a week when the end-of-cycle grind really kicks in. And if he gets elected – and I think he will, and I think the smart money would think so even if King hadn’t been one of Smart Money’s friends for over six years – we’ll have to see what happens, then.
But it’ll have nothing to do with the FCC – for the radical reason that everyone involved in the show at Salem and KYCR thought about all these possibilities well in advance. Equal Opportunity might apply to the DFL candidates in 15B; they might just be really dumb to try to use it.
But if all you leftybloggers want to get equal time, pass the word to Dave Walz, Keith Ellison and BettyMcCollum that my repeated invites to appear on the Northern Alliance still stand. Of course, nobody at any of those offices has the manners to respond, much less the seeds to take us up on it (even though RT Rybak found Ed and I perfectly respectful and civil interviewers; McCollum and Ellison apparently need interviewers who’ll paint their toenails on the air for them)…
…possibly because there’s no FCC law that requires them to accept the offer.