Oregon Broadcasters Chief Says Coverage Adequate

Bill Johnstone, president of the Oregon Association of Broadcasters, defended the stations’ track record of political coverage, saying the 1 percent of newscast time devoted to state and local campaigns in October 2004 gave regular TV viewers “more than our fill.”

He said asking stations to air more stories quoting mudslinging politicians would not serve the public interest. As reported to The Oregonian

 “Very few politicians can tell the truth,” Johnstone said.

“Our coverage is certainly adequate,” he added, “given everything else that the public has access to — the Internet, the ads they see and hear, the billboards, the unwelcome calls from candidates.”

“They’re using the public airwaves for free and, in return, they’re supposed to meet public-interest obligations,” said Janice Thompson, of the Money in Politics Research Action Project.

“It seems like the very least they could do is to provide information to voters to make informed decisions on their ballots,” she told the (Salem) Statesman Journal newspaper.

It has been almost a decade since the FCC turned down a station’s license based on citizen complaints. Federal law says broadcasters may be licensed to use the public airways only if they serve the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” And FCC rules say, “The basic responsibility to contribute to the overall discussion of issues confronting the community is a … duty … for each licensee.” But the commission does not spell out what constitutes adequate coverage of local issues, or how many minutes a station should spend on it.

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