Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Suit seeks cable for political ads

Plaintiffs: Ban violates free speech

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An anti-tax group and a former councilman sued Lebanon in federal court Monday, seeking to open city-owned cable to political advertising.

        The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes, joined by former councilman John McComb, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, COAST attorney David Langdon said.

        “The city's prohibition on political ads violates one of the most fundamental rights we have — the right to free and unfettered political speech,” Mr. Langdon said. “It seems that certain members on Council are more interested in protecting their seats on Council than they are in upholding the U.S. Constitution.”

        Council meetings are televised on the cable system's public access channel, he noted. At the same time the cable system refuses to sell political advertising.

        “We have done what we were instructed to do by the city manager and council, and that is to tell them we don't accept such advertising at this time,” city Telecommunications Director Jim Baldwin said in response to the suit. “We do whatever council wants us to do.”

        In April, Council voted 4-2 against an ordinance that would have permitted political ads to be inserted on national channels such as CNN and ESPN at the same rates the city charges other advertisers.

        City Attorney Mark Yurick said then that he believed Lebanon could not refuse political advertising without an ordinance.

        The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction to allow the ads and unspecified damages.


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