In a complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission Sept. 24, Mr. Perot accused ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox of not selling him enough prime-time half-hours to deliver his message to the American public. The complaint said the networks have violated the reasonable access provision of the Communications Act of 1934 in not selling him the time.
NETS CLAIM COMPLIANCE
Furthermore, Mr. Perot said, the networks have violated the equal opportunity provisions of the act by giving President Clinton and Bob Dole free time to debate while denying him free time.
Officially, all the networks said they believe they have complied with their legal responsibilities.
Unofficially, TV executives with knowledge of the situation said Mr. Perot was able to get all four networks to sell him more prime-time half-hours four years ago because prime-time competition wasn't as cutthroat as today.
"Fox has already pulled the plug on one of its [new fall] shows, `Lush Life,"' said one of the executives. "The trigger wasn't pulled that fast four years ago."
The broadcast networks fear that if they pull a show to air an infomercial, viewers will flock to entertainment shows on other networks, never to return.
With two weeks of ratings now in, the networks can more easily find time slots if forced to do so. Such judgments wouldn't have been possible to make when Mr. Perot initially requested time.
`IT BOILS DOWN TO ECONOMICS'
"What it boils down to is economics," said Mr. Perot's media director, Sharon Holman. The networks "are not willing to bump their new fall programming."
The FCC can tell the networks to make more prime-time half-hours available but can't prescribe their number or the time slots.
The question the FCC must quickly decide is whether the networks are obligated to bump shows to sell Mr. Perot more valuable prime-time half-hours.
On Sept. 25, CBS received a fax from Mr. Perot's attorney declining the offer of three non-prime-time half-hours and accepting one prime-time slot in November. Mr. Perot previously bought a half-hour on CBS.
Calling ABC the most cooperative of the networks, Mr. Perot bought one prime-time half-hour early in September and has been offered three more prime-time slots.
NBC sold Mr. Perot a prime-time half-hour in September, and has offered another half-hour and an hour, as well as about 20 minutes on Election Eve.
Fox has sold the campaign one prime-time 30-minute slot, and has offered another as a back-up to a World Series game in case of a game delay or rain-out.
Media Partnership Corp., Westport, Conn., a division of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Western International Media, buys time for Perot '96.M
Contributing: Carol Krol.