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.