A California broadcaster cannot give Republican candidates free air time unless the same offer is extended to other candidates, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Oct. 29.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A California broadcaster cannot give Republican candidates free air time unless the same offer is extended to other candidates, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Oct. 29.

Pappas Telecasting Cos. donated $325,000 in air time on its radio and TV stations to 13 GOP county committees the previous week. Democratic Assemblywoman Nicole Parra filed a complaint with the FCC on Oct. 28 after a Pappas television station in Fresno began running free ads given to her opponent, businessman Dean Gardner.

Attorneys for Pappas argued in briefs that the gifts were legal and did not trigger federal equal time rules; company president Harry J. Pappas purchased time at his own stations and donated it to Republican committees to be used any way they wanted.

But William Johnson, deputy chief of the FCC's Media Bureau, said in his order that the facts were clear -- the broadcaster had given free time to a candidate. "When a candidate is furnished time at no cost, competing candidates are entitled to receive the same amount of free time in comparable time periods," he said.

It was not clear whether the company would appeal the staff ruling to the full commission. Calls to its spokesman were not immediately returned.

The company said only $3,600 of the $70,000 in donated time it had booked for Gardner had been used through Oct. 28. Parra said Pappas must now make $3,600 in free air time available to her.

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