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CYRIL E. SAGAN v. PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC TELEVISION NETWORK (07/28/88)

decided: July 28, 1988.

CYRIL E. SAGAN, IN BEHALF OF REGISTERED VOTERS OF THE COMMONWEALTH
v.
PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC TELEVISION NETWORK, AND ROBERT A. GLEASON, SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH, AND LEGREE S. DANIELS, COMMISSIONER OF ELECTIONS, APPELLEES. APPEAL OF CYRIL E. SAGAN



Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, entered March 13, 1987, at No. 2734 C.D. 1986. Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala, Papadakos and Stout, JJ.

Author: Stout

[ 518 Pa. Page 566]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Cyril E. Sagan, a legally qualified candidate for the United States Senate in the May 20, 1986, Pennsylvania primary election, filed, in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, a pro se "Complaint for Malicious Acts and Malicious Process to Knowingly and Wilfully Deny Plaintiff and Voters of the Commonwealth Their Rights as Set forth Under Pennsylvania Statutes and The Constitutions of Pennsylvania and of the United States of America."*fn1 He complained of his exclusion from a televised debate of candidates, aired over public television stations, in which two other candidates appeared. Appellant named as defendants the Pennsylvania Public Television Network, Robert A. Gleason, Secretary of the Commonwealth, and Legree S. Daniels, Commissioner of Elections.

Sagan sought injunctive relief*fn2 and monetary damages.*fn3 The defendants filed preliminary objections, one of which challenged the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court. That court viewed Sagan's complaint as being based on alleged violations of the "equal time"*fn4 and "fairness" doctrines of section 315 of The Communications Act of

[ 518 Pa. Page 5671934]

, 47 U.S.C. § 315 (1982), and, in a per curiam opinion, sustained the preliminary objection to its jurisdiction and dismissed the complaint. 104 Pa. Commw. 601, 522 A.2d 191 (1987). This appeal followed. We affirm.

In deciding this jurisdictional question, we have reviewed the pertinent legislation: (1) The Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151-610 (1982); and particularly (2) Section 315 of that Act, which popularly is known as the Equal Time Act; (3) Sections 390-399 of The Communications Act, popularly known as the Federal Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a funding mechanism for non-commercial broadcasting; and (4) 1962 Pa.Laws. 329, 71 Pa.Stat.Ann. § 1188.1-.4 (Purdon Supp. 1987), which established the Pennsylvania Public Television Network Commission.

The Communications Act of 1934 established the Federal Communications Commission, a federal regulatory agency that controls and licenses commercial and educational broadcasting. Section 315 of that Act is the source of the "equal opportunities" and the "fairness" doctrines.*fn5 The "equal opportunities" doctrine is set forth in section 315(a) which states, in relevant part, that:

If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station: Provided, That such licensee shall

[ 518 Pa. Page 568]

    have no power of censorship over the material broadcast . . . .

47 U.S.C. 315(a) (1982) (emphasis added).

The Act forbids discrimination among candidates insofar as rates, facilities, practices, or services rendered. Paulsen v. F.C.C., 491 F.2d 887 (9th Cir. 1974). The Act does not require a station to sell or give a candidate any particular time period. The station must, however, make periods that ...


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