Federal Election Commission commissioners on Oct. 30 huddled to respond to a request from XM Satellite Radio on whether it can provide “free” and “unfiltered” airtime to presidential candidates on its new channel, POTUS ’08.
Already a draft of an FEC advisory opinion, dated Oct. 26 and obtained by this column, concluded that XM’s provision of free airtime to presidential candidates does in fact fall under the “press exemption” of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which nevertheless was enacted before anybody conceived of satellite radio and its wealth of channels.
D.C.-based XM, which features more than 200 channels and more than 8 million subscribers, announced recently the launch of a 24-hour, commercial-free, national radio channel dedicated exclusively to the 2008 presidential election.
The FEC advisory explains that a separate and distinct part of POTUS ’08 is to provide free airtime for presidential candidates or their representatives “to speak to voters,” and those participating would have full “editorial control” over the message content.
Look for the free airtime to be offered to all presidential candidates who have qualified for the ballot in 10 or more states. They each would be allowed to broadcast up to five minutes per day during a specified one-hour time block.
Our national namer: Nancy Pelosi