Tim Curtin, a ballot-listed candidate for Illinois Comptroller, is prepared to protest third-party exclusion from WTTW’s televised candidate forum.
(Source: Tim Curtin for IL Comptroller)
CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—October 20, 2016. In a statement released Sunday, the Illinois Green Party blasted a WTTW candidate forum for the state Comptroller election as “betrayal of its own mission statement” and “discrimination in favor of the two corporate‑sponsored parties.”
The forum, to be held on October 25th and aired on “Chicago Tonight,” will include only the Democratic and Republican candidates for Comptroller. Illinois ballots, however, list four candidates for the office, including the Green Party’s Tim Curtin and a candidate from the Libertarian Party.
Contacted by Curtin, Mary Field of WTTW stated in an email, “We make decisions about which candidates are in contention and seem to have viable campaigns.” Offered an opportunity to explain the station’s decision-making process or standard for “viability,” Field declined to cite any specific criteria, saying “this close to an election, we can tell which candidates have gained traction with voters.”
“This exclusion is arbitrary and I would argue unlawful,” said Curtin, citing the FCC equal-time rule, which requires broadcasters who offer airtime to a political candidate to offer the same time to all eligible candidates for that office. Political debates not hosted by a media station are considered exempt, but Curtin believes that, as WTTW is hosting the event and has billed it as a “candidate forum” rather than a debate, the station is in violation of the equal-time rule.
“Obviously we don’t want to have to file an FCC complaint,” said Curtin, “but at present, the station is not acting in accordance with its public interest obligations. This is a public broadcaster supported with taxpayer dollars. They have no business excluding ballot-listed candidates based on a producer’s personal opinion of who is or isn’t ‘viable.’
Curtin still hopes to be included in the candidate forum. However, in the event that he is excluded, “Direct action is not out of the picture,” stated Curtin. “There is a large and energized movement in favor of alternative parties this year, and we are willing to rally at the WTTW studio if they continue to exclude ballot-qualified candidates from their programing.”