Messer, Caparello & Self
A Professional Association
215 South Monroe Street, Suite 701
Post Office Box 1876
Tallahassee, Florida 32302-1876
Telephone: (850) 222-0720
Telecopier: (850) 224-4359
January 25, 2002
Dear General Manager:
This correspondence is submitted to you on behalf of Floridian’s
Against Inequities in Rates (FAIR). FAIR is a political committee
created for the purpose of establishing fair and equitable rates of
taxation for all Floridians. FAIR would like to apprise you of its
concerns regarding political advertisement that your station has aired,
or may be requesting to air, on behalf of the Coalition to Protect
Florida’s Economy, the Florida Association of Broadcasters, and your
For your review and information, a script of the
advertisement at issue referencing Senator Ken Pruitt as a subject is
enclosed. The following statements in the advertisement are false and
incorrect for the following reasons:
- The ad claims: "Tourists are winners (graphic)
and Floridians are losers."
Fact – Tourists will continue to pay their fair
share of the tax burden in Florida because transit lodging, rental cars
and admission fee will continue to be taxed at the higher rate of 6%
rather than the lower 4.5% rate. This will offset approximately $286
Million of the proposed sales tax reduction for Floridians.
- The ad claims: "Hundreds of services will be
Fact – Fifty-five (55) services will be taxed, not hundreds.
- The ad claims: Services like "day care, electric
and long distance bills, interest on mortgages, insurance premiums,
and even you r funeral" will
now be taxed.
Fact – None of the services referenced will be
taxed in PCS/SB 1106.
Under any objective standard, the advertisement is false and misleading.
Floridian’s reject political falsehoods. They seek
genuine and honest debate on the issues, with an expectation that
disagreement will be fair and based on the facts. These ads are, instead,
misleading and filled with outright lies.
Your station should refuse to allow its facility to be
used in this way. Under the Columbia Broadcasting System line of cases,
your station is not obligated to accept any advertisements from the
Coalition to Protect Florida’s Economy, or the Florida Association of
Broadcasters. The Federal Communications Commission, in decisions like
National Conservative Political Action Committee, has repeatedly rejected
efforts by non-candidate organizations like those to obtain a guaranteed
right has repeatedly rejected efforts by non-candidate organizations like
these to obtain a guaranteed right of access for whatever ads it chose to
air. Broadcasters are authorized by law to insit that advertisements such
as the one presented by the Coalition to Protect Florida’ Economy, the
Florida Association of Broadcasters and your station, be responsible.
Ideed, at a minimum they must bear some semblance to known and established
facts. Since your station is identified as a sponsor, it cannot avoid the
responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the statements. Your station is
not merely providing airtime under the auspices of its FCC license, it is
rather advocating the message presented.
FAIR believes that your station has a conflict of interest
concerning the decision to air these false advertisements. Inasmuch as the
tagline in the advertisement indicates that this advertisement is
furnished by this station, FAIR believes that any potential impact of the
proposed legislation on your economic interest has clouded your obligation
to the public under your license granted by the Federal Communications
Although broadcast stations are routinely called to
exercise editorial judgement, the false and misleading advertisement at
issue is not a good faith of editorial exercise. If your station air the
advertisement as a sponsor, it will be using the power conferred on it by
virtue of its FCC license to advance its own economic self-interest,
without providing an opportunity for the airing of competing viewpoints on
FAIR requests that your station refuse access by these
groups to air these false statements. If you are unwilling to do so, FAIR
requests an explanation for that decision in law or station policy, as
well as an equal opportunity to present the facts to the public, since it
appears that these advertisements are being aired without cost to the
Coalition to Protect Florida’s Economy, the Florida Association of
Broadcasters, and this station.