Scripps making free airtime available to candidates

Thu, January 13, 2000 by Mark Kroeger

CINCINNATI – The E.W. Scripps Company is launching Democracy 2000, a public discourse initiative that will make free airtime available to select political candidates on the nine network-affiliated television stations operated by the company.Following the recommendations of a presidential advisory committee on the role of television broadcasters in political campaigns, the Scripps stations will provide five minutes of free airtime to candidates nightly between 5 p.m. and 11:35 p.m. in the 30 days preceding this year’s general elections. The stations also will provide free airtime as needed during the 30 days preceding primary elections.“This commitment represents our core belief that the Scripps stations must, and will, provide leadership in their communities during important elections,” said Jim Hart, senior vice president of broadcasting for Scripps. “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.”Each of the Scripps stations will be given the discretion of deciding which candidates and races in their communities will be eligible for the free airtime. The free airtime will be made available within the framework of local newscasts and may be offered in a variety of formats, including debates, extended interviews with reporters or issue statements by candidates.Internet sites operated by each station also will feature election-related content, labeled “Democracy 2000,” that will include candidate positions on issues, voter registration information, information on the offices being sought and descriptions of political jurisdictional boundaries. The television stations will offer links to candidate Web sites when available.The Scripps television stations are concentrated in the top 50 U.S. markets and reach about 10 percent of the nation’s television households. Participating in Democracy 2000 are the company’s six ABC affiliated stations, WXYZ, Detroit; WCPO, Cincinnati; WEWS, Cleveland; WFTS, Tampa, Fla.; WMAR, Baltimore; and KNXV, Phoenix. Also participating are the company’s three NBC affiliated stations, WPTV, West Palm Beach, Fla.; KSHB, Kansas City, Mo.; and KJRH, Tulsa, Okla.Making free airtime available to political candidates was one of the primary recommendations of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters.“We believe Scripps is the first major television station group to embrace the advisory committee’s recommendations,” Hart said. “In doing so, we believe the Democracy 2000 initiative will complement our Station group’s already rich and respected tradition of in-depth coverage of local, state and national elections.” In addition to its nine network-affiliated television stations, The E.W. Scripps Company operates 19 daily newspapers; three TV networks, Home & Garden Television, the Food Network and Do It Yourself; and a TV programmer, Scripps Productions. The company also operates United Media, a worldwide syndicator and licensor of news features and comics; the Scripps Howard News Service; and publishes independent Yellow Pages directories. Scripps operates 31 revenue-producing Web sites, including hgtv.com, foodtv.com, diynet.com and comics.com.