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Supervisorial Candidate Wants Equal TV Time : Politics: Trudi K. Loh says her rival's show gives the Thousand Oaks councilman unfair advantage.

March 18, 1994|CARLOS V. LOZANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County supervisorial candidate Trudi K. Loh is asking Thousand Oaks city officials to either pull the plug on Councilman Frank Schillo's cable television show, "Citizen Exchange," or give her campaign equal air time.

Loh said Thursday that her opponent's show, broadcast on Ventura County Cablevision's government Channel 10, gives him an unfair advantage in the supervisor's race.

Loh is asking officials to either cancel Schillo's half-hour show or provide her the opportunity to air her own program. "Citizen Exchange" is authorized by the Thousand Oaks City Council and paid for with general fund money received from cable franchise fees.

"I feel that all of the other candidates in the race should have the same access," said Loh, an attorney. "A half-hour of television time is a great deal of exposure."

But Schillo, who began hosting the show in 1985, said the program focuses on local government matters and is not meant as a political forum. Schillo said he taped the latest segment on disaster preparedness on Tuesday, and that the show is set to run twice on April 8 and once on April 25. A new show is recorded every three months.

"We don't have people on there running for office," Schillo said. "This is to provide information to the public about what's going on in city government. I'm doing my job. And I'm not going to stop for anything."

Schillo said he saw no difference between his appearance on "Citizen Exchange" and the weekly cable television broadcast of City Council meetings.

"I guess we should black out my face on Tuesday nights, also," he said.

Although Loh said she believes Schillo's half-hour program may be in violation of Fair Political Practices guidelines because of the extra exposure it provides him, the FPPC said that was not the case and that the city would not be in violation of any laws if it continues to sponsor Schillo's program during the supervisorial campaign.

"As long as he doesn't say during the show, 'Hey, by the way, vote for me in the next election,' it's OK," said Jeanette Turvill, a FPPC spokeswoman in Sacramento.

However, Loh said she believed there may be some "ambiguity in this area of the law" and plans to investigate the matter further with the Federal Communications Commission. In the meantime, she is still requesting equal access on the government channel.

Tracy Westen, the city's cable television legal consultant, said the city is not legally obligated to provide Loh with free air time since it is not a regular broadcast network and therefore not governed by the same rules.

Westen said the city could still grant Loh's request. "The law doesn't require the city to do one thing or the other," Westen said.

City officials said they have asked Loh to write a letter with her request and that it will be considered.

Legal issues aside, at least one other supervisorial candidate, H. Jere Robings, said he believed it was not appropriate for Schillo to continue to broadcast his show during the campaign. But he said he would not protest if Schillo did so.

"No one's watching it anyway," said Robings, who along with Loh has never actually seen Schillo's program.

Candidate Madge L. Schaefer had no comment on the issue, other than to say that "I'll leave it to the lawyers to work out." Carter Ward, the fifth candidate in the race, could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, David LaRue, president of Ventura County Cablevision, said Loh and other supervisorial candidates could produce their own television shows--using the station's studio and equipment free of charge--on public access Channel 8.

LaRue stressed, however, that such a show would have to be issue-oriented and free of politicking. Otherwise, the cable company's involvement would be considered a campaign contribution under federal law.

Although city officials agreed that a public access show would be an option for Loh to consider, Loh said she would first need to compare viewer markets for channels 8 and 10.

"It might be a reasonable alternative," she said. "I'll have to see what all of my options are."

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