FCC: Station can refuse to run anti-abortion ad during Super Bowl

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied a request on Friday from anti-abortion activist Randall Terry to force a Chicago television station to run his ad during Sunday's Super Bowl.

Terry, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president to attract attention to the anti-abortion cause, filed a complaint with the FCC after WMAQ Chicago, an NBC affiliate, refused to run his ad.

The law requires stations to carry the ads of candidates who are either on the ballot in the state or if they make a "substantial showing" that they are running a legitimate campaign as a write-in candidate.

The FCC sided with WMAQ, ruling that Terry, who will not be on the ballot in Illinois, did not campaign extensively enough in the state to qualify as a legitimate candidate for president.

"I'm very disappointed that all the campaigning we did in Illinois did not constitute a substantial showing," Terry told The Hill. "I've been there five times."

The commission pointed to a letter from the Democratic National Committee claiming that Terry is not a "bona fide Democratic candidate." The DNC argued that Democratic candidates must demonstrate they are "faithful to the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic party" and that they will participate in the nominating convention in "good faith."

"Based on the record before us, we conclude that it was not unreasonable for WMAQ to conclude that Terry had not made a substantial showing that he is a bona fide candidate for Democratic nomination for President in the State of Illinois," the FCC wrote.

The commission ruled that even if Terry were a legal presidential candidate, WMAQ would not have to offer him airtime during the Super Bowl.

The law requires that stations provide candidates "reasonable access" to television time, but the commission concluded that candidates do not have the right to air ads whenever they want.

"Terry requested time on a highly rated program that occurs only once annually — in this case typically the highest rated program of the year — and it may well be impossible, given the station’s limited spot inventory for that broadcast, including the pre-game and post-game shows, to provide reasonable access to all eligible federal candidates who request time during that broadcast," the commission wrote.

Terry said his Super Bowl ads will run on stations in Kentucky and Missouri.