On September 8, 2016 Dr. Kiumars Kiani (Dr. Q) filed to run for Congress in the 1st district of Ohio. On September 13, 2016, the Hamilton County Board of Elections certified Dr. Q as a legal write-in candidate.
On September 15th iHeart radio (WLW-AM & WKRC-AM, both Big Talk Stations in the Cincinnati, Ohio area) refused to run a 60-second ad and a 1-hour program which Dr. Kiani had already paid for on Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th.
iHeart Radio was apparently backed by the FCC in making this decision. Under the Reasonable Access Law (USC Title 47, including sections 312 and 315), FCC-licensed stations (like WLW and WKRC) must sell time to legally certified candidates, which is a very clear standard for everyone to operate under.
iHeart Media is invoking a regulation that the FCC made long after Congress amended the Communications act of 1934 in the early 70s. This vague regulation calls for a “substantial showing” from write-in candidates as an additional “requirement” that is not clearly defined, and therefore could be read to effectively negate the Reasonable Access Law by putting the decision regarding who is a real candidate and who is not in the hands of the radio station – exactly what the Reasonable Access Law was designed to prevent.
As far as we know, this bureaucratic regulation has only been invoked a handful of times since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was formed by Congress in 1974. As far as we can tell, it has only been invoked to try and stop candidates who criticize the Jewish Lobby in the USA (such as the ADL or AIPAC) and/or Israel (for instance, on account of its persecution of the Palestinians).
Kiumars (pronounced Q’-Mars) and his campaign are marshaling forces for a legal showdown in federal court.
Right this minute, Dr. Kiani has lodged a request with WKRC-AM for equal time under another provision of USC title 47. Popular morning host Brian Thomas interviewed Congressman Steve Chabot (the incumbent and Dr. Kiani’s opponent in this race) on WKRC from 7:45 AM to 8 AM. Title 47 says that if the interview is not devoted to a breaking news item then all Congressional opponents can ask for equal time. There is no language about “substantial showing” for a write-in candidate in the relevant section of title 47, just that the person has to be a legal candidate. So now, what is WKRC and iHeart going to do? Treat Dr. Q as a legal candidate and give him the equal time the law says he deserves, or (per the absurd) state he is not a legal candidate, even though he is certified as such by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, Dr. Kiani is mounting a vigorous effort, including posters, bumper stickers, yard signs, campaign flyers, this website, participating in conference calls, giving speeches when invited, as well as at some arranged by the campaign and supporters. Dr. Q is also going to be interviewed by the local Spanish-American paper very soon, as well as be interviewed on their radio station, as well as place some ads on the radio station.
So it is going to be interesting to see if the FCC or iHeart Media/Radio is going to try and construe all of this activity as NOT a “substantial showing”. Stay tuned.