President Carter's reelection campaign committee filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission yesterday, charging the nation's three commercial television networks with "a blatant denial" of Carter's right to purchase time on the networks for a political message.
The complaint asked the FCC to direct the networks to make available a 30-minute time slot during prime time between Dec. 4 and Dec. 7 for purchase by the Carter committee.
An FCC official yesterday said the commission is likely to consider the complaint Nov. 20, unless a special meeting is called before then.
Officials at CBS and ABC in New York said they had not seen the complaint and could not comment. But an NBC spokesman said the complaint has no merit and noted that "because of the problems inherent in the equal time law, presidential candidates in past elections have confined their early television buys to local stations in the states where primaries were being held."
The complaint was instigated by Gerald M. Fafshoon, the president's campaign advertising director, who was turned down by the networks when he asked to buy the time for the first week in December. At issue is the Carter committee's desire to use national television time as a fund-raising device the first few days after Carter announces for reelection on Dec. 4.
Rafshoon is now producing a 30-minute film on the Carter presidency that is planned to be shown on network television between Dec. 4 and Dec. 7 in connection with hundreds of fund-raising parties the Carter campaign is planning across the country that week. The parties would be held when the film was to be shown.
In letters to Rafshoon that were included with the complaint, network executives generally pleaded that it was too soon before the 1980 presidential campaign to sell network time for political purposes.
CBS offered to sell the Carter committee five minutes at 10:55 p.m. Dec. 8, a Saturday night, and a five-minute segment during the day.
CBS has already sold five-minute segments at 10:55 p.m. to Republican presidential contenders John B. Connally and Ronald Reagan, but, like the other networks, turned down their requests for 30 minutes of prime time.
The Carter committee charges that the networks' refusal to sell it 30 minutes of prime time violated a requirement that candidates for federal office be given "reasonable access" to the airways.
The complaint also argued that the networks are devoting large amounts of their news programming to the presidential campaign, and therefore do not consider it "too early" in the policical season, and that the CBS offer of five minutes on Dec. 8 is "insufficient in amount and unsuitable to the needs of the candidate."
An FCC official said there are no known precedents for the action by the Carter committee, although the FCC has ruled in other cases that the networks cannot be forced to sell time for nonpolitical purposes.