The Carter-Mondale reelection campaign may have lost at the polls, but it won a case in court that will give future candidates more access to TV time, Monitor correspondents Julia Malone reports.
In a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the major TV networks erred when they refused to sell time to the former President's campaign committee in December 1979. CBS-TV, NBC-TV, and ABC-TV all said that it was too soon in the campaign to sell the 30 minutes requested. The Federal Communications Commission ruled that the campaign season had already begun and that under law the networks must give candidates "reasonable" access. In backing up the FCC, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger ruled that federal candidates have an "affirmative right of access to the broadcast media."
As a result of the decision, the FCC and not the networks will have the authority to sound the opening gun for political campaigns.
In other action, the high court broadened a citizen's protection from police searches of wrapped packages in an automobile. By a 6-to-3 vote, it extended protection that has previously been given closed luggage.
In another auto search case, the majority ruled, also 6-to-3, that an arresting police who smelled marijuana smoke in a car could search the passenger compartment, including a coa t found in the car.