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NYCLU Calls On Fox Station Not To Censor Candidate’s Political Advertising

The day after news reports indicated Fox station WNYW/Channel 5 had refused to run advertising for Manhattan Borough President candidate Brian Ellner, the New York Civil Liberties Union initiated an investigation to determine whether the station violated the “equal time” requirements of federal law. A September 6, 2005 New York Times article indicated Ellner’s ad featured “[President] Bush’s face superimposed upon a middle-age man’s naked torso as Mr. Ellner says of the President that ‘the emperor has no clothes.'” Ellner’s campaign maintains WNYW/Channel 5 initially accepted the advertisement but subsequently rejected it and explained that the ad was rejected because it was “disrespectful to the office of the President of the United States.”

“The decision to reject this advertisement is clearly censorship based on content,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “If WNYW/Channel 5 has accepted political advertising from any other candidate for Manhattan Borough President, its refusal to run Ellner’s ad would be unlawful censorship in violation of federal law.”

The NYCLU is attempting to determine whether WNYW/Channel 5 has accepted any such advertising by inspecting the station’s public files. If another candidate for Manhattan Borough President has placed advertising on the station, the NYCLU has called on WNYW/Channel 5 to fulfill its equal opportunity obligation under FCC rules and accept Ellner’s ads without content-based censorship.

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