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Minnis gives Brading flak for cable-access use

House incumbent claims Brading gave himself extra TV time, but he says she could do same

The battle between Republican House Speaker Karen Minnis and Democrat Rob Brading grew even more intense this week as Minnis claimed her opponent was misusing his job to gain extra television time on two public-access cable channels.

Minnis charged that Brading, who is chief executive officer of MetroEast Community Media, had aired what she said amounted to an 'infomercial' about his campaign as many as 20 times on Cable Channels 11 and 21. She claimed that she is entitled to equal time on those channels under rules established by the Federal Communications Commission.

Brading, however, responds that the public-access channels are available for anyone to use, and that while FCC rules don't apply to public-access television, all Minnis has to do is ask for time and it will be granted.

The program in question is an interview of Brading conducted by host Bob Nisbit. The 30-minute show originally was aired on Tualatin Valley Community Television but then was sent to MetroEast Community Media to be shown in East Multnomah County. An attorney for Minnis sent a letter to Brading and his lawyer on Wednesday demanding that equal time be granted.

Brading said Friday that public access television is all about providing the community free opportunities to air programs on cable. 'And that includes Karen Minnis,' Brading said, adding that she can have someone interview her and air it as a cable show.

In addition, host and producer Nisbit asked him for the interview, Brading said.

Minnis said her campaign has completed a 15-minute segment that will be delivered to MetroEast Community Media on Monday. However, she continued to argue that Brading took advantage of his position with the non-profit corporation by airing his 30-minute segment multiple times.

'I wish I could have the same time slots,' she said. 'He has a distinct advantage.'

David C. Olson - staff director for the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, which serves Portland, Multnomah County and the four cities in East County - said shows are routinely aired multiple times and that Minnis can do the same. Her program's producer just has to request it.

In addition, he has no information that Brading isn't following the content-neutral rules regarding scheduling.

As for Minnis' legal claims, Olson said the 'equal-time doctrine' doesn't apply to public access television but instead applies to for-profit cable companies, such as Comcast, as well as broadcast channels, or those that the rabbit ears pick up.

'In fact, the FCC has no jurisdiction over public access facilities,' said Olson, who heads the cable commission that provides regulatory oversight of Comcast as well as provides funding for non-profit media, including MetroEast Community Media, Portland Community Media and Tualatin Valley Community Television.

In addition, using cable access to campaign is nothing new.

Every other year during election season, Olson gets calls from 'aggrieved candidates' upset about seeing their opponent on public-access television.

And Olson responds to each call the same: 'You go right out to that access facility and get your program on, and you talk about yourself and your issues because that forum is just as available to you as it is for your opponent.'

Mark Garber contributed to this story.