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FCC easy on ad overcharges

Broadcasters accused of overcharging politicians for campaign ads can heave a sigh of relief: The FCC does not appear inclined to levy big penalties against those stations facing complaints.

That’s the message that will be coming out of the FCC this week, when the agency is expected to announce it is ordering WTVT-TV Tampa to rebate $ 1,175 to two Florida gubernatorial candidates who accused the station of overcharging for campaign blurbs.

An FCC source said KABC-TV Los Angeles and WLEX-TV Lexington, Ky., will also face rebate orders, but that the penalties are not likely to be draconian.

The FCC action stems from some 30 lawsuits filed throughout the nation against broadcasters alleged to have exceeded the allowable “lowest unit rate” charge permitted for political blurbs. One FCC source said the agency’s light punishment will send the message that broadcasters should fight lawsuits at the FCC rather than settle out of court with “political broadcasting ambulance chasers.”

WTVT-TV, a CBS affiliate, will be ordered to rebate $ 675 to former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, who lost his reelection bid in 1990 to Democrat Lawton Chiles. The FCC will order WTVT to pay Chiles $ 500 in overcharges. The rebates will not include interest on the overcharges.

The FCC intends to notify KABC that it has found the station overcharged the 1990 campaigns of then gubernatorial candidate Dianne Feinstein, former Sen. John Seymour, andThomas Hayes.

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