Twin Cities Media Refusal of Mayoral Ads Called ‘Ugly Precedent’ for the Future

MINNEAPOLIS/St. PAUL – Six radio stations and one TV station here have refused to run advertising for mayoral candidates in races here, testing the public-interest statutes and raising protests from candidates and agencies.
‘We assess whether or not we’re going to run advertising for any election and in this case, we just made a judgement call that we weren’t going to accept any political ads at all,’ said Harold Crump, gm for ABC affiliate KSTP-TV.
In addition to KSTP, six FM radio stations, including KSTP-FM, WLTE-FM, KQRS-FM, KTCZ-FM, KDWB-FM and KQQL-FM, are refusing political ads.
Money doesn’t appear to be the issue either. Typically political candidates pay the lowest unit rate, but Crump said even if mayoral candidates wanted to pay top dollar, the station wouldn’t accept the advertising.
‘This isn’t about trying to soak them for more money,’ Crump said. ‘We are giving the candidates a tremendous amount of news coverage, which is really free air time. We just don’t want the advertising.’
Despite the news coverage, at least one candidate’s media advisor believes the stations should allow political advertising as part of their obligation to the public they serve.
‘I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life and I’ve never run across a situation like this,’ said Bill Hillsman, North Woods Advertising. Hillsman is handling the Sharon Sayles Belton campaign, but is best known for his work for Paul Wellstone in the 1990 Senate race. ‘The concern is not necessarily for this race, but I think it’s a pretty ugly precedent. And it seems undemocratic.’
Candidates who were refused access have no legal recourse, said Bob Baker, an attorney for the Federal Communications Commission’s political programming branch. He said an FCC ruling passed in December, 1991, determined there is no public-interest basis for running state and local political advertising. The ruling freed stations to use their discretion.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)