Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller has declared his candidacy for the county supervisor’s seat now held by Terry Lamphier, yet continues to appear regularly on KNCO radio.
While this isn’t a violation of the Federal Communications Commission’s equal opportunities requirement, KNCO’s use of Miller in its coverage of Nevada Union football raises questions about fairness when just a few media outlets dominate a small community.
Miller can be heard on Friday nights providing color commentary during Miners games, hardly an enviable task this season. But given the popularity of prep football in this area, it doesn’t hurt to be publicly associated with the team.
The FCC’s equal opportunities (also known as “equal time”) provisions don’t kick in until an on-air personality becomes an official candidate. Neither Miller nor Lamphier have filed the necessary paper work yet, according to the county Registrar of Voters office. (The first filing deadline is in February.)
Many broadcasters don’t wait that long, removing employees from the air as soon as they say they’re candidates. Fox News removed Newt Gingrich from the air when he announced his candidacy for President last year, football analyst Craig James disappeared from ESPN when he decided to run for the Senate in Texas, and a Chicago radio station recently removed a sports talk show host from the air when he ran for mayor of a suburban city.
The equal time rules apply to local and state races as well as federal contests, according to long-time broadcast law attorney David Oxenford, and they also apply even if the employee-candidate never mentions his or her candidacy on the air.
KNCO is a major media outlet in our community, and has the potential to reach every voter in the third district. If Miller becomes an official candidate before the football season ends, Lamphier should make a call to the management of the station and demand equal time. (By the way, that would be free of charge.)