In another example of a major U.S. broadcaster providing partisan support to the Republican Party, Pappas Telecasting is being accused of giving $325,000 worth of airtime to GOP candidates in several California legislative races. A group calling itself Free Press has made the claim that free commercial airtime is being given to Republican candidates by Pappas, a privately held Visalia, CA-based owner and operator of 20 T.V. station affiliates of six major broadcasting networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, The WB, UPN, and Azteca America). The free spots are allegedly being given to opponents of local California Democrats, including State Sen. Mike Machado, Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto, and Assembly Member Nicole Parra. A spokeswoman for Pappas says that the company had legally paid for the time, and is therefore not offering the politicians "a freebie or free time." Free Press, however, claims that this is a violation of the Federal Communications Commission's "equal time rule," which stipulates that a station that sells or gives one minute to one candidate must sell or give the same amount of time with the same audience potential to all other candidates for that particular office. However, a candidate who cannot afford time does not receive free time unless his or her opponent is also given free time. "Pappas is making a bogus claim that the ads are not contributions--that they're 'buying' ad time from themselves," says Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver. -------------------- Equal Time Rule Upheld Against Pappas The Federal Communications Commission has stopped a local broadcaster's plan to help Republican candidates. The FCC has ruled that Pappas Telecasting, owner of KMPH Fox 26, violated equal time rules by donating free air time to Republican Assembly candidate Dean Gardner. The commission says his opponent, Democrat Nicole Parra, must now be given free equal advertising time. Local political analyst Don Larson says it's an obvious decision, "I look at this and I keep thinking, why would someone see the clearness of what the FCC has been ruling for years and years and years? There's always an equal opportunity on air time, because the air belongs to the public. The broadcasters are licensed to use it under the FCC regulations." Pappas Telecasting spokesman Mike Angelos responded, "We feel that the FCC bowed to political pressure groups and this matter is one that is rife for review by the courts once political passions have cooled." Angelos added, "All remaining spots for Dean Gardner have been pulled. Nicole Parra will receive free air equivalent to that which has run on behalf of Dean Gardner from the Pappas contribution." Pappas Telecasting estimates the Gardner campaign received about $10,000 worth of free ads. Nicole Parra is now eligible to receive an equivalent amount of advertising.