Friday, January 14, 2000

Scripps to give candidates free TV time

Political parties cheer company's move

The Associated Press and the Cincinnati Enquirer

        E.W. Scripps Co. television stations will give air time to selected political candidates this year to help the public make informed decisions, the company announced Thursday.

        Scripps' nine network-affiliated TV stations, including WCPO-TV, (Channel 9) in Cincinnati, will provide five minutes of free air time to candidates nightly between 5 p.m. and 11:35 p.m. in the 30 days preceding primary and general elections, the Cincinnati-based company said.

        Each station will have discretion to decide which candidates and races will get the air time, which may be used for debates, interviews with reporters or issuing statements during local newscasts.

        Leaders of both the local Democratic and Republican parties applauded Scripps' action.

        “I think it's a great idea,” said State Sen. Mark Mallory, co-chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. “I think it's an opportunity to find out about the candidates. ... a good way for candidates who are not well-financed to get the word out.

        Said State Treasurer Joseph Deters, chairman of the Hamilton Coun ty Republican Party: “I think what Scripps is doing is a great move. I think it may start (a) dialogue on how best the public airwaves should be meted out.”

        Mr. Deters added that “the devil will be in the details” in deciding which candidates and races get the free air time.

        Scripps is responding to a recommendation by the President's Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters, said Jim Hart, the company's senior vice president of broadcasting.

        “We believe our stations play an important role in encouraging public discourse, providing a framework for open discussion and affording citizens the best opportunity to make informed choices,” Mr. Hart said.

        The stations' Web sites also will carry political background including voter registration information, the candidates' positions and links to campaign sites.

        William A. Weathers contributed to this report


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