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Political Web ad violates TVW rule

Wed., July 25, 2012

Candidate refuses to pull debate footage

OLYMPIA – The Democratic candidate for state attorney general is being accused of violating TVW broadcast rules by using the government cable channel’s footage in his latest commercial.

The commercial for Bob Ferguson, which only appears on the Internet, features a brief video clip of his opponent, Republican Reagan Dunn, challenging a Ferguson allegation about poor attendance at King County Council meetings.

TVW, a public affairs network, broadcast the June 12 debate live from the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane, and video of the full event remains available on the organization’s website. But the network doesn’t allow edited versions of any of its broadcasts to be used for campaigns, TVW President Greg Lane said.

The Ferguson campaign has thus far refused to pull the ad. Campaign spokesman Mike Webb said the ad uses only a short clip from the debate, in which Dunn challenges Ferguson to back up an assertion made a few minutes earlier about missing council meetings. Both candidates currently serve on the King County Council.

The ad then lists a series of meetings Dunn missed and then shows the clip again.

“I think it’s a good Web ad,” Webb said. Asked about TVW’s prohibition about using its broadcast footage, he replied: “I’m not aware that anyone knew that.”

The campaign is still considering its options, looking to see if similar footage exists elsewhere, he said.

Lane said he found it hard to believe that no one on the campaign was aware of the prohibition. TVW works closely with the state political parties and the legislative caucuses to make it clear the network wants to stay nonpartisan and out of the campaigns by forbidding the use of its footage.

The network doesn’t want to be perceived by the public as supporting a candidate or a party, he said, or jeopardize relations with groups that allow it to broadcast their events.

Campaigns occasionally put footage from its candidate debates or legislative proceedings in their commercials, but they almost always pull the ads when TVW tells them of the prohibition. Only one previous campaign in his memory, for King County Executive Dow Constantine, refused to remove an ad that used TVW footage, Lane said.

On Friday, Lane said the network contacted the Ferguson campaign privately and asked them to pull the ad by Monday evening. When the campaign refused, Lane accused them of “choosing short-term political gain over protecting the public interest.”

Republicans were quick to join in the criticism. State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur issued a statement noting that Ferguson previously was fined for violating Public Disclosure Commission reporting rules for donations to his county council campaigns: “How can he be trusted to uphold the laws of our state when he will blatantly break rules to suit his own purposes?” Wilbur said.

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