SPJ Helps Fight FEC Rules on Candidate Debates

Article excerpt


* April 10

SPJ fought the Federal Election Commission on regulations that burden the ability of news organizations to sponsor debates between political candidates without running afoul of federal campaign finance laws.

Under long existing commission regulations, the sponsorship of such debates by media organizations is considered a punishable crime - an illegal corporate campaign contribution - unless the debate participants are selected according to "pre-established, objective criteria."

SPJ and 12 other organizations - led by Viacom, Inc., owner of CBS - jointly filed a petition April 10 asking the FEC to commence proceedings that would reverse the rule established pursuant to the Federal Election Campaign Act.

The petition was prompted by the filing of two complaints with the FEC by fringe political candidates who objected to being excluded from debates sponsored by local television stations in New York and Boston.

SPJ and the other media organizations argue that the FEC should not, and constitutionally may not, require a news organization to formalize criteria for selecting debate candidates, or apply such criteria in a rigid fashion, as the price of being allowed to sponsor a debate. …