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FCC eases equal-time rule for airing political debates

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed Tuesday to allow television networks to sponsor political debates from which some candidates may be excluded. Previously, if a broadcaster sponsored a debate, he had to invite all the candidates or risk being penalized under an FCC requirement that all candidates be afforded equal time.

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Broadcasters argued that their inability to limit the stage to just the major candidates made debates impractical. The requirement was circumvented by having debates sponsored by a third party, such as the League of Women Voters, and then covered as a news event, which was exempt from the equal-time requirement.

Supporters of the decision said it would lead to more broadcasts of political debates and provide the public with more information. Groups opposed to the change attacked it as narrowing public access to a wide range of candidates.

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