In 1980, there was the candidate who said God had spoken to him during an airline flight over the Midwest and told him to run for president. He wanted time on the television networks equal to Ronald Reagan's and Jimmy Carter's.
This year, there was the minor-party candidate who brought his tape to a TV station that was offering air time to all local candidates. The station found that his tape was ripped and unusable, but the candidate wanted time anyway.
The Democratic National Committee and the Republican leader of the California Assembly, candidates for sheriff and candidates for the U.S. Senate are calling the Fairness Office of the Federal Communications Commission these days, asking Milton Gross and his staff for help.
Gross' office monitors compliance with the Fairness Doctrine requiring that people with differing points of view on significant political issues get equal access to the airwaves. It handles complaints from any of the more than 6,000 local, state and national candidates against any of the 10,000 radio and television outlets licensed by the FCC.
In practice, that comes to 2,500 calls a month, 125 or more a day, between Labor Day and Election Day. "Most of the people are quite nice about it," Gross said. "Our function is to open up lines of communication between the complainant and the broadcaster. We resolve most complaints over the telephone. If someone wants to pursue it and get all the facts in writing he can."
In 1980, about 20 cases came before the full commission. Gross said the number will be smaller this year.
A year ago, the FCC sent legislation to Congress seeking repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. So far, the legislation hasn't gone anywhere.