FCC backs Pawlenty
Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Friday radio show can continue for months before federal rules require stations to give challengers equal time. The federal agency that regulates radio stations says the equal-time provision does not kick in until a candidate'...
Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Friday radio show can continue for months before federal rules require stations to give challengers equal time.
The federal agency that regulates radio stations says the equal-time provision does not kick in until a candidate's name is certified for the ballot, which in Minnesota will occur July 20. And Democrats running in the primary election would not be eligible for equal time until after the Sept. 12 vote, according to Mark Berlin, a Federal Communications Commission attorney.
Some governor candidates, especially in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, are getting more irritated by the week that the Republican incumbent has free airtime while they don't. DFL candidate Kelly Doran's attorneys are demanding equal time from the originating radio station.
"It is a fundamental aspect of fairness," Doran said. "If this was 2003 and the governor has got a radio show, that is a totally different thing. But this is election season."
Doran said it is obvious Pawlenty is running for re-election - he says he is, he is raising money and he has a campaign committee.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty
However, Berlin said all that does not matter; the key is when a candidate's name is officially placed on the ballot.
Also, Berlin said in an interview, candidates like Doran have to wait longer.
Candidates - such as those from Libertarian, Green and Independence parties - could demand equal time after Pawlenty's name goes on the ballot in July if they have no primary election opposition. But Berlin said candidates like Democrats that are in primary elections could not seek equal time until after the primary vote.
WCCO, the station that originates the Pawlenty show, has no immediate plans to drop it.
"It is not intended to be a political campaign platform, and in our review of it, it isn't," said Mary Niemeyer, senior vice president of the station.
About 61,000 Minnesotans normally hear the governor's show on WCCO and 100,000 altogether, including those who listen on a network of stations around the state, Niemeyer and the governor's office estimate.
The "Good Morning Minnesota" audience may not be as big as thought outside the Twin Cities. Neither WCCO nor the governor's office knows what stations carry the show. The governor's Web site, for instance, lists at least one station that never carried it and another that dropped the show last year.
Bob Spilman, general manager for KRCQ in Detroit Lakes, said he stopped carrying the Pawlenty show in mid-July because of poor technical quality.
KRCQ would have dropped the show anyway because of the election, Spilman said.
"When we took the program off the air, we had one call," Spilman added.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707