FCC orders TV station to air anti-abortion activist Randall Terry's campaign ads

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered a Washington, D.C., television station to air the ads of Randall Terry, an anti-abortion-rights activist running for president.


Terry is known for his graphic TV ads depicting aborted fetuses. He also has aired ads with images of beheadings and other violence, claiming President Obama is allied with Muslim terrorists.

On his website, Terry claims that his ads are reaching millions of swing-state voters.

The law requires TV stations to provide "reasonable access" to all qualified candidates for federal office, meaning that political candidates are able to buy airtime at a discounted rate compared with businesses or political advocacy groups. 

WUSA, Washington's CBS affiliate, argued that Terry is not on the ballot in any area that it serves and thus that he does not qualify for the discounted rate.

But Terry is on the ballot in West Virginia. He argued that because WUSA's signal reaches parts of the state, it is required to air his ads. WUSA claimed its targeted audience is in the Washington, D.C., metro area and that it reaches a "negligible" number of West Virginia viewers.

In a decision issued Wednesday, the FCC's Media Bureau estimated that WUSA reaches about 3 percent of West Virginia's population. The commission concluded that figure was enough to require WUSA to air Terry's ads.

"We conclude that it would be unreasonable for the Station not to provide reasonable access to Terry," William Lake, chief of the Media Bureau, wrote.

WUSA said Thursday it would ask the FCC to reconsider the decision. 

"WUSA's signal does not reach West Virginia, and we disagree with the decision by the FCC staff to require us to broadcast advertisements for Mr. Terry, who is not running for office in Washington D.C, Maryland or Virginia," Mark Burdett, the station's president, said. "We will be asking the FCC to reconsider its decision."

— Originally published at 1:10 p.m.