FCC RULING IMMINENT ON ANTI-ABORTION ADS

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A Federal Communications Commission ruling is imminent on whether political spots that graphically feature dead fetuses must be aired on demand by TV stations, or if the commercials can be limited to late evening.

Michael Bailey, a self-proclaimed "conservative Christian pro-life" candidate, first aired the spots in 1992 during an unsuccessful run for Congress. The Indianapolis Republican also ran those spots plus similar commercials during his failed bid in this year's May congressional primary, and now has produced spots in the same vein for other candidates.

Joe Slovenec, an independent U.S. Senate candidate in Ohio, will use a Bailey-produced spot that alternates scenes of singing children with photos of a dead fetus, Mr. Bailey said.

And the FCC late last week reported the complaints about a congressional candidate in Missouri airing a graphic anti-abortion commercial.

Mr. Bailey, 37, made no apologies.

"A lot of children are still alive because I aired those ads," he said. "I think what the FCC has done [its inaction] changed my campaign because it restricted my message to only certain times in two markets."

A number of TV stations initially aired the spots without challenge in 1992, then asked the FCC to grant them the leeway to channel the ads into later hours, when children wouldn't see them.

Despite taking reams of public comment, the FCC has been slow to act on the case. But a ruling now is expected soon, perhaps as early as this week, and observers believe the broadcasters will win some discretion.

The commission could find the commercials are harmful to children, and that would allow stations to restrict their viewing to after 8 p.m. and before 6 a.m.

The National Association of Broadcasters fears the FCC will use the case to expand its regulatory authority.

"We've indicated to the FCC our concerns over the impact of these ads on stations and their relationships with audiences," said Jack Goodman, VP-policy counsel. "But we don't want to see this become a way for the FCC to expand its indecency rulings."

"The public can vote against these candidates," said Tom Edmonds, president of the American Association of Political Consultants. "You don't let the federal government tell politicians what to say."

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