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McGlynn v. New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority

Decided: October 19, 1981.

RICHARD B. MCGLYNN, INDIVIDUALLY AND THE COMMITTEE TO ELECT RICHARD MCGLYNN, GOVERNOR, RESPONDENTS,
v.
NEW JERSEY PUBLIC BROADCASTING AUTHORITY AND NEW JERSEY NIGHTLY NEWS, APPELLANTS



On a rehearing of the judgment of this Court, dated May 27, 1981 and reported at N.J. (1981).

For reversal -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Pashman, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock and Sullivan. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Pashman, J. Wilentz, C.J., concurring. Pollock, J., concurring. Wilentz, C.J., and Pollock, J., concurring in the result.

Pashman

This is a case of major importance. It transcends the claims of the individual litigants who were political candidates in the recently concluded gubernatorial primary election. The overriding issue concerns the relationship between the journalistic freedom which has been granted the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority and its duty of fairness in the coverage of gubernatorial campaigns.

We now hold that the Authority has been given a wide range of journalistic freedom under Federal and State law in determining the content and scope of television broadcast coverage of gubernatorial election campaigns. This freedom has been given by the Legislature to the Authority to effectuate the significant public policy goal of providing the people of New Jersey with needed coverage of the subjects and events which most directly affect them. The Authority, though a governmental instrumentality, is intended by the Legislature to exercise its discretion with the independence and freedom that characterize a free and vibrant press. At the same time, its important responsibilities

are to be discharged within a framework of fairness and impartiality comporting generally with prevailing federal regulatory philosophy.

In so holding, we strongly endorse the fundamental commitment which the Legislature has made for the people of this State in creating a public broadcasting station to carry out these important goals. We fully anticipate that the judiciary will have no direct or active role in this arena. This is as it should be. However, if any controversy should come before the courts, the Judiciary will unhesitatingly honor the commitment of the Legislature to a free and fair public broadcasting authority.

The determination which we reach today results from the reargument of this appeal. We have had the opportunity to consider the implications of the case in greater depth than was possible when it first reached us on an emergent basis. This reconsideration has brought the entire court to a different conclusion than was earlier held. Accordingly, we reverse our prior order.

We need to briefly reiterate the course which this appeal has taken. Richard McGlynn, later joined by Jack Rafferty, candidates for the Republican nomination for governor, challenged the refusal of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority to include them in a forum on five important issues (Forum) to be telecast by the Authority on its "A Closer Look" program during the final week of the 1981 primary campaign. When the case reached the Appellate Division, two of the five scheduled segments had already been broadcast. All the segments included statements on the issues by four of the eight Republican candidates. McGlynn alleged that his exclusion from the program violated N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39 (Section 14 of the 1974 "Act to amend and supplement 'The New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act'"), N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(h) (Section 7 of the "New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority Act"), 47 U.S.C. § 315 and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Upon plaintiffs' emergent application, the Appellate Division ordered that all excluded candidates be included in any further showings of the Forum. The court further directed that statements by the excluded candidates on the issues already discussed be broadcast at approximately the same hour that the originals were shown. We heard the Authority's appeal on an emergency basis and affirmed the Appellate Division's order.*fn1 On appeal, the Honorable William J. Brennan, Jr., Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, refused to issue a stay.

After the primary election, we granted the Authority's petition for rehearing because the public interest would be served by a clarification of our earlier summary ruling.

I

The New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority (Authority), an instrumentality of the State of New Jersey, was established in 1968 by the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority Act, N.J.S.A. 48:23-1 et seq. The Authority owns and operates WNJS, WNJM, WNJB and WNJT, four educational television stations which constitute the New Jersey public television network. All four stations are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Plaintiffs Richard McGlynn and Jack Rafferty were among the eight candidates for the Republican nomination for governor of New Jersey. Ann Klein*fn2 was one of thirteen candidates for the Democratic nomination. The primary election was held on

June 2, 1981.*fn3 During the primary campaign, the Authority provided extensive television coverage as required by the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditure Reporting Act, N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39.

As a result of the inadequacy of television coverage of New Jersey gubernatorial races by the private New York and Philadelphia stations, see infra at 122-23, significant responsibility for keeping the New Jersey viewing public informed about the candidates and issues falls upon New Jersey public television. The problems of election coverage by the New York and Philadelphia stations were exacerbated in this case by the presence of 21 candidates in the race. The Authority fulfilled its responsibility in several ways. First, it aired a series of ten-minute profiles in which each candidate received the opportunity to discuss the issues. Each profile was shown twice during May. Second, "McLaughlin's Beat," a regularly scheduled weekly interview program, broadcast interviews with the candidates in groups of two or three from March 5 through May 21. Third, the Authority covered two League of Women Voters forums, one for each party, to which all candidates were invited. Finally, the various candidates appeared on "New Jersey Nightly News" (Nightly News). There is no evidence of how often each candidate appeared on the evening news. However, "A Closer Look," a ten-minute segment of the Nightly News which generally provides in-depth analysis of a single issue or event, broadcast profiles of each candidate in mid-April.

As the campaign neared its conclusion, Herbert Bloom, Executive Producer of Nightly News, decided to devote "A Closer Look" to what he described in an affidavit to be "five very significant issues in the campaign." All 21 candidates had been asked to comment on these issues, and their responses were taped approximately four weeks before they were to be shown.

Bloom explained that "there was not sufficient time remaining before the primary election * * * to cover all 21 candidates." He therefore used his "professional news judgment . . . in consultation with [his] senior staff," to select a group of leading candidates whose views would be broadcast. Ten of the 21 candidates were chosen for this final series of programs.

Among the candidates excluded from this forum were McGlynn and Rafferty. On May 25, 1981, the four New Jersey public television stations and WNET/Thirteen announced their intention to air the series of discussions on "A Closer Look." The following day, McGlynn and the Committee to Elect Richard McGlynn Governor filed a complaint in the Superior Court, Chancery Division. The complaint alleged that the Authority had refused McGlynn's request to be included. McGlynn alleged that the exclusion violated his rights under the Federal Communications Act, the New Jersey Campaign Expenditures and Reporting Act, the Public Broadcasting Authority Act, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

The Chancery Division found the complaint to be an appeal from an administrative determination by the Authority and so transferred the case to the Appellate Division on May 26. At this point, Rafferty intervened as a plaintiff. The Appellate Division issued its Order on May 27 directing that the excluded candidates be included in any future forum and that statements by the excluded candidates on the issues discussed in the telecasts already aired be broadcast at approximately the same hour as the original segments were shown. We affirmed the order as to the Authority on May 27, and the Authority aired the planned "Closer Look" segments with all candidates for governor included.

After the primary election, we granted the Authority's Petition for Rehearing.

II

This case is technically moot since the primary election has been held and respondents are no longer candidates for governor. However, "we have often recognized that courts may hear and decide cases which are technically moot where issues of great public importance are involved." In re Geraghty, 68 N.J. 209, 212 (1975). See, Dunellen Bd. of Ed. v. Dunellen Ed. Ass'n, 64 N.J. 17, 22 (1973); John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital v. Heston, 58 N.J. 576, 579 (1971); East Brunswick Tp. Bd. of Ed. v. East Brunswick Tp. Council, 48 N.J. 94, 109 (1966). This case raises important issues concerning the role of New Jersey public television in covering state elections. Failure to elaborate upon our decision of May 27 would inevitably force the courts to face further cases of this nature, possibly on an emergent basis, without any useful precedent construing the New Jersey statutes at issue here. We have therefore decided to resolve the issues presented.

III

The starting point for our discussion must be the New Jersey statutory scheme, which is comprised of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority Act, N.J.S.A. 48:23-1 et seq., and Section 14 of the act to amend and supplement the "New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Act," N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39, as amended in April 1981, L. 1981, c. 107. The Authority's obligations to the people of New Jersey regarding coverage of their gubernatorial election derive from these statutory provisions. Yet there are no reported cases construing either act.*fn4

A. Overview

The Authority was created in 1968 in response to the unique dependence of New Jersey viewers on out-of-state television stations. Although the ninth-largest state in population, New Jersey is one of only two states without at least one licensed VHF television station. New Jersey viewers depend on seven stations from New York City and four from Philadelphia for VHF television coverage. Although several private UHF stations are located in New Jersey, their signals do not have the power to reach the entire state and their viewership is too small to substantially affect New Jersey's dependence on out-of-state television. The FCC found in 1976 that "there is a need for improved New Jersey television service . . . by some or all of those mass-audience stations licensed to either New York City or Philadelphia." State of New Jersey Television Service, 58 FCC 2d 790, 804 (1976).

This situation may have been the result of federal communications policy. A 1961 FCC primer, issued to New York and Pennsylvania stations detailing the extent of their obligation to cover New Jersey elections, underscores the problem.

[A] New York City broadcaster might broadcast news and public affairs programming concerning major events in outlying cities or areas receiving its signal, but could hardly be expected to give in-depth coverage of local elections from Connecticut or Central New Jersey. A Connecticut or New Jersey station might cover such elections, but we would not fault a New York station that chose, in its discretion, to ignore them. [Quoted in State of New Jersey Television Service, 58 FCC 2d 790, 798 (1976)]

According to the New Jersey Coalition for Fair Broadcasting, which monitored New York and Philadelphia news telecasts in 1973, only 13% of Philadelphia local news broadcasts and 5% of

New York local news broadcasts concerned New Jersey topics. New Jersey Television Service, supra, at 790.*fn5

It was partly to alleviate this longstanding paucity of television coverage of New Jersey news that New Jersey created the Public Broadcasting Authority.*fn6 The Authority is governed by the Public Broadcasting Commission, which consists of five ex-officio members (the Commissioners of Education and Community Affairs, the Chancellor of Higher Education, the State Treasurer and the Attorney General) and ten other persons appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Commission appoints the Executive Director subject

to the approval of the Governor. The Director serves as the chief executive officer of the Authority. Either the Commission or the Governor may replace him, although in the latter case he is given the right to notice and a hearing before he can be dismissed. N.J.S.A. 48:23-4 and -5.*fn7 The Authority is empowered to "establish, own and operate" noncommercial television and radio stations, N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(d), and to seek FCC licenses for them, N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(e).

The act creating the Authority contains two relevant provisions concerning the content of its programming. N.J.S.A. 48:23-9 prohibits the Authority from "supporting or opposing any political party or candidate for public office." N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(h) empowers the Authority to

[a]ssume responsibility for the character, diversity, quality, and excellence of programming which is released via its licensed facilities, provided that programs or series of programs of a controversial nature shall be presented with balance, fairness and equity. [emphasis added]

These provisions will be discussed at greater length below, after the remainder of the statutory scheme is set forth. For now it suffices to note that although these provisions vest the Authority with broad discretion in news coverage, they also define the contours for the exercise of this discretion, thus belying any argument that the Legislature intended to free the Authority completely from all statutory direction.

As part of a comprehensive revision of the Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Act, the Legislature in 1974 enacted N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39, which in turn was amended significantly in 1980 and 1981. The policy underlying the 1974 act was expressed by N.J.S.A. 19:44A-27:

It is hereby declared to be a compelling public interest and to be the policy of this State that general election campaigns for the office of Governor shall be financed with public support pursuant to the provisions of this act. It is the intention of this act that such financing be adequate in amount so that

candidates for election to the office of Governor may conduct their campaigns free from improper influence and so that persons of limited financial means may seek election to the State's highest office.

One of the crucial problems facing any candidate, especially one of limited means, is access to television. This is particularly true in New Jersey because the New Jersey viewing market is dominated by out-of-state stations. A candidate wishing to buy air time must pay the high New York or Philadelphia rates, even though he needs to reach only a fraction of the markets served by the stations in those cities. In recognition of this special problem, the Legislature included a provision concerning the Authority in its campaign spending reform statute.

N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39 originally concerned only the general election. It directed the Authority to promote full discussions of public issues by the candidates in the general election for governor, and mandated that the Authority set aside a specified amount of time for each candidate on the ballot. It was amended in 1980 as part of the bill extending public financing to the primaries, adding a guarantee of fixed amounts of air time for each primary candidate.*fn8

In 1981, however, the Legislature again amended the statute, apparently in response to the unwieldy size of the 1981 primary field. N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39 now reads as follows:

The New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority established under P.L.1968, c. 405 (C. 48:23-1 et seq.) shall promote full discussions of public issues by the candidates for nomination for election or election to the office of Governor on the ballot in any primary or general election, in accordance with Federal law and free of charge to the candidate. The authority may promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary to effectuate the purpose of this section.

Thus, the Legislature removed the specific minimum time provisions and replaced them with a general obligation to promote full discussions by the candidates in accordance with Federal law.

The issue presently before us is to determine what constraints, if any, these three statutory provisions -- N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(h), N.J.S.A. 48:23-9 and N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39 -- were intended to place on the Public Broadcasting Authority's coverage of New Jersey gubernatorial elections. This determination must be made in light of the Authority's unique position as both an instrumentality of the New Jersey government and a crucial source of television exposure for gubernatorial candidates.

B. The Public Broadcasting Authority Act

The "balance, fairness and equity" provision and the prohibition against political activities, N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(h) and -9, respectively, clearly prohibit the Authority from becoming an advocate for any political position or candidate. The Authority cannot endorse candidates or legislation and it cannot actively use its stations to advance its views on the public issues of the day. The Legislature envisioned full, balanced discussion of public issues.

The Legislature's need to mandate balance was obvious. As discussed, supra at 123-24, a Governor plays a substantial role in appointment of Authority personnel. Not only does he appoint the members of the Commission, which is "the head of the authority," N.J.S.A. 48:23-2, but he must approve the Commission's designee for Executive Director and he retains the power

to dismiss him. To eliminate the resulting risk that the Authority might become politicized, the Legislature enacted precautionary measures. The provisions are intended to eliminate any appearance of impropriety. The Legislature must have recognized that the public perception that a Governor was using the Authority to advance his own political ends would be almost as damaging as the reality, both to New Jersey public broadcasting and to New Jersey politics in general. Finally, regardless of the danger of improper influence, it was deemed inappropriate for the Authority to use its stations to advance particular political positions or candidates.

The Authority seeks a narrow construction of these provisions. The prohibition in N.J.S.A. 48:23-9 against "supporting or opposing any political party or candidate for public office" could be read merely to prohibit actual endorsement or financial contributions, and the "balance, fairness and equity" language of N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(h) could be interpreted to be a mere restatement of the "fairness doctrine" of the Federal Communications Act.*fn9 We do not believe that so narrow a construction was intended. The State statutory standards, though not necessarily inconsistent with the federal standards relating to fairness, are more expansive. In the present context, they encompass a duty to cover elections in a balanced fashion. Because of the weighty considerations underlying the Authority's duty to provide balanced coverage and in light of N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39, to be discussed presently, we hold that N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(h) mandates "balance, fairness and equity" in the Authority's coverage of the gubernatorial candidates. Similarly, we believe that since a substantial imbalance in the Authority's election coverage can have the same effect as an actual endorsement, N.J.S.A. 48:23-9

also encompasses a "balance, fairness and equity" constraint on Authority election coverage.

C. N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39

In ordering the Authority to include plaintiffs in its "Closer Look" forum on the issues, the Appellate Division found an "imperative of equal time" running through N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39. McGlynn v. New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority, 181 N.J. Super. 577 (App.Div.1981). The Authority claims that any equal time obligation that might have been present in this provision prior to the 1981 amendment has been eliminated by that amendment. It asserts that the statute now requires merely promoting full discussion of the election itself, with the means of doing so and decisions on the participation of individual candidates left to the Authority subject only to the constraints of Federal law.

We start by examining the language of the amended provision. Nowhere does it contain the words "equal time." To read a strict equal time requirement into the statute would thus be an act of judicial legislation. That is not, however, to say that the statute does not impose an affirmative duty; at very least, the Authority is required to actively cover the campaign. The question is how the Legislature meant the Authority to carry out this directive. The Authority argues that it was given unbridled discretion to promote discussions by the candidates; respondents counter that the statutory guidelines constrain the Authority's discretion.

The Authority relies heavily on the reference to Federal law in N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39, as amended in 1981. The Authority argues that this demonstrates the Legislature's intent to remove any state restrictions on the amount of broadcast time each candidate was to receive. Thus, the Authority's policy would be governed solely by the Federal Communications Act, which gives maximum discretion to broadcasters.*fn10

The Authority seeks to buttress this position with the legislative history of the 1981 amendment, which was passed, at least partially, in response to the presence of 21 candidates on the ballot in the impending gubernatorial primaries. Realizing that the specific time provisions would hamper the Authority given the number of candidates to be covered, the Legislature delegated to the Authority the responsibility to determine how best to promote full discussions by the candidates. Thus, the sponsor's statement to the bill indicates that the amended bill

would direct the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority to provide coverage of the gubernatorial primary and general election campaigns and give the authority the discretion, within the limits of Federal and State Law, as to the manner in which it does so. [emphasis added]

The committee statement accompanying the bill is similar in its direction:

This bill amends the election laws to permit the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority a greater degree of flexibility in the promotion of the discussion of public issues by gubernatorial candidates in the primary and general election campaigns.

This legislative history is a good indicator of what the Legislature intended the 1981 amendment to provide. Evidently, the amendment was prepared as a response to the large 1981 primary field and the effects it would have on Authority election coverage. The amendment should be read in the light of its legislative history. Clearly, the Legislature's general approach to the problem was to vest greater discretion in the Public Broadcasting Authority. Nonetheless, we do not believe that the Legislature meant to remove all limitations on the Authority's discretion. Rather, the amendment was enacted to remove the minimum coverage requirements, and only thereby to increase the Authority's discretion regarding election coverage.

Several facts lead us to disagree with the Authority's argument that the State meant to repeal all constraints on Authority coverage of gubernatorial elections save those imposed by the Federal Communications Act. First, that construction renders the new provision mere surplusage, since the Authority is required to abide by the Federal Communications Act independent

of N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39.*fn11 Such a construction is to be avoided wherever possible. In re Toms River Water Co., 82 N.J. 201 (1980); 2A Sutherland, Statutory Construction (4th ed. 1973), § 46.06.

Second, the mandate to "promote full discussions * * * by the candidates" denotes more than the general federal exhortation to operate in the public interest. It at least requires the Authority to actively cover gubernatorial elections, but we believe that it does more. Reading the statute in light of related statutory provisions, it is evident that the Legislature imposed a duty to promote full discussions by the candidates in a balanced, fair and equitable fashion. It is difficult to see how the legislative mandate of full discussions among the candidates can be accomplished if some of the candidates are continually excluded from the discussions, or if the opportunity to appear provided to the candidates is grossly inequitable. We believe that the Legislature did not intend such a result.

The language of the statute points directly to the opposite result. It mandates discussion by "the candidates . . . on the ballot in any primary or general election. . . ." N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39. This language is inclusive; it does not give the Authority the liberty to continually exclude candidates who have fulfilled the legal requirements for getting listed "on the ballot." It similarly would not allow unfair or imbalanced coverage of those candidates.

The concurring opinions contradict themselves in their interpretation of the State statute. On the one hand, they concede that the statute imposes a duty to promote full discussions -- a duty not imposed by federal law. On the other hand, they say federal law grants the Authority complete discretion to determine the manner of compliance. Our concurring colleagues thus

make the specious and groundless claim that the Legislature, while placing a legal duty upon the Authority, did not intend that the duty be enforced. Rather than recognize the legislative mandate, the concurring opinions creatively rewrite it.

We are persuaded as well by the context of the statute that N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39 was meant to preclude gross imbalance in the "full discussions," and that it must be read in light of the N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(h) mandate that controversial issues be presented with "balance, fairness and equity" and the N.J.S.A. 48:23-9 prohibition against supporting candidates. First, N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39 remains a part of major campaign spending reform legislation, the underlying theme of which is equalizing the opportunity of the candidates for governor to present their ideas to the populace. See N.J.S.A. 19:44A-27. Gross imbalance in access to television coverage would work against that goal.

Second, the statement of the sponsor of the 1981 amendment stated that the Authority was granted discretion "within the limits of Federal and State law." [Emphasis added] This makes clear that the Authority was meant to be subject to State regulation as well as FCC regulation. The reference must be to the other two provisions, discussed above, which deal with the content of the Authority's political programming: N.J.S.A. 48:23-7(h) and -9. We concluded earlier that those provisions mandated "balance, fairness and equity" in the Authority's coverage of the gubernatorial candidates. That conclusion strengthens our belief that N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39 places similar constraints on the Authority.

To sum up our discussion of the New Jersey statutory scheme, we conclude that the Public Broadcasting Authority Act and the amended Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Act must be read in pari materia. The provisions of each, separately, raise a strong implication that, consistent with its broad discretion to determine broadcast content, the Authority's campaign coverage must be executed with "balance, fairness and equity."

Reading them together, that conclusion becomes inescapable. We therefore hold that the Authority is vested with wide discretion in determining broadcast content but that, with respect to coverage of a gubernatorial campaign, it is required by New Jersey statute to promote full discussion of the issues by the candidates, consistent with "balance, fairness and equity."

The great discretion we have given the Authority goes completely unnoticed by our concurring colleagues, thus preventing an accurate reading of the majority's holding. They mistakenly assert that the majority has imposed a comprehensive regulatory scheme on the Authority, making judges the new programmers of New Jersey public television. They conjure up the vision of Big Brother watching over the Authority and "sitting with them at every meeting." (Infra, at 139-140) Nothing could be further from the truth. As we have construed it, State law gives great discretion to the Authority to make programming decisions, subject only to considerations of fairness.

Nor is there any basis for Justice Pollock's argument that our holding today may convert New Jersey public television into a "public forum" to which all citizens will have a right of access. We agree that such a result would be undesirable and was not intended by the Legislature. But we strongly reject the notion that this result follows from our holding today. We have certainly not created a general right of access to public television.

"Public forum" is a legal designation given to certain places, "such as public streets, sidewalks, and parks," L. Tribe, American Constitutional Law at 689, where historically everyone has been free to speak, subject only to "time, place or manner" restrictions. Id. at 689. See, e.g., United States Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, 453 U.S. 114, 101 S. Ct. 2676, 69 L. Ed. 2d 517 (1981); Greer v. Spock, 424 U.S. 828, 96 S. Ct. 1211, 47 L. Ed. 2d 505 (1976).

This "public forum" concept has been strictly limited to those areas in which tradition mandates a right of access. See, e.g.,

United States Postal Service, supra (mailboxes not public forum); Greer, supra (public areas of military base not public forum); Adderly v. Florida, 385 U.S. 39, 87 S. Ct. 242, 17 L. Ed. 2d 149 (1966) (grounds of county prison not public forum); City of New York Municipal Broadcasting System, 56 F.C.C. 2d 169 (1975) (radio and television airwaves not public forum). The requisite tradition of general public access to the broadcast media is totally lacking.

Justice Pollock argues that the New Jersey statutory scheme, as we have construed it, converts New Jersey public television into a public forum. However, a place becomes a public forum only when it has been "dedicated to public use." Muir v. Alabama Television Commission, 656 F.2d 1012, 1020 (5th Cir., Sept.1981). The right of access created by New Jersey statute is limited to "candidates [for Governor] on the ballot." N.J.S.A. 19:44A-39. It thus concerns only legally qualified candidates, in only one election, which occurs only once every four years.

CBS v. FCC, 453 U.S. 367, 101 S. Ct. 2813, 69 L. Ed. 2d 706 (1981), is directly on point. The United States Supreme Court there held that 47 U.S.C. § 312(A)(7), which gives candidates for federal office a right of access to FCC-licensed stations, does not create a general right of access.

Petitioners are correct that the Court has never approved a general right of access to the media. Nor do we do so today. Section 312(a)(7) creates a limited right to "reasonable" access that pertains only to legally qualified federal candidates and may be invoked by them only for the purpose of advancing their candidacies once a ...


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