PBS Hawai‘i Candidate Forum Political Policy


PBS Hawai‘i recognizes a democracy relies upon citizens being informed and engaged regarding our national, state and local governments, political leaders, and public policy. Therefore, PBS Hawai‘i presents political coverage and candidate and public forums as part of its mission to educate and inform Hawai‘i residents.

This policy serves as a guideline for PBS Hawai‘i to produce programs that fulfill this mission in a manner that best serves the citizens of Hawai‘i. This policy shall be made available to the public through the station’s public file and posted on the station website, to advise candidates or any other interested party of PBS Hawai‘i’s political programming commitments and guidelines.

PBS Hawai‘i management and its producers shall make these decisions based upon this policy, station resources and mission.

PBS Hawai‘i maintains editorial control over all content and programming.


PBS Hawai‘i shall follow all rules and regulations as mandated by the Federal Communications Commission pertaining to political coverage and programming, including “equal time” requirements, and in addition shall abide by all rulings on these matters emanating from the Supreme Court, or other Courts of the United States.

Federal law and FCC administrative rules establish that broadcasters enjoy wide latitude in the exercise of editorial discretion, even in the case of sponsored political debates. The Supreme Court recently held that television and radio broadcasters may exclude candidates of limited appeal in their election debates so long as reasons for the exclusion are reasonable, the viewpoint is neutral, and the decision held to be the station’s adopted policy. (Source: Arkansas Educational Television Commission vs. Forbes, 118 S. Ct. at 1640.) While PBS Hawai‘i acknowledges this ruling, and the fact that the station has the authority to exclude a candidate of “limited appeal,” PBS Hawai‘i will be inclusive rather than exclusive in inviting candidates to forums (see “Selection of Candidates” criteria below).


PBS Hawai‘i’s main objective is to inform voters in a responsible manner. However, given limited station resources-financial, managerial, technical, and available airtime, the station must determine which specific contested races are a worthwhile use of those resources. PBS Hawai‘i management and producers shall, at their sole discretion, make decisions on format and races that PBS Hawai‘i produces, broadcasts and livestreams.


For purposes of political programming and election content to be produced by PBS Hawai‘i, the only absolute requirement to include a candidate is that a candidate must be legally qualified and must be certified by the State of Hawai‘i Office of Elections to appear on the ballot for the office. PBS Hawai‘i has the latitude to exclude candidates based upon good-faith journalistic judgment in providing a conversation that will best serve the public’s interest.


When PBS Hawai‘i is the sole producer of a political forum, this policy, and decisions made by PBS Hawai‘i management and producers, shall determine the content and format.

When PBS Hawai‘i makes the decision to collaborate with one or more organizations, all partners will agree to abide by this policy to produce programming of the highest quality. Representatives of partner organizations may become advisors in the development of the actual format, dates, or procedures of the political programming; however, PBS Hawai‘i maintains editorial control of all programming or content. PBS Hawai‘i will develop an agreement outlining the duties and responsibilities of the partners, as well as the distribution rights pertaining to the content. In general, and unless otherwise provided in the agreement, PBS Hawai‘i shall be the sole copyright owner of the political programming.


PBS Hawai‘i owns all rights to any political programming produced by the station, which includes all digital rights, broadcast, streaming, and reproduction rights, of all the materials created.

Any partnership agreement developed between PBS Hawai‘i and other organizations regarding political coverage or programming shall abide by this policy, except that PBS Hawai‘i may agree to share content with partners, specifying what content shall be distributed, and in what manner.

Partners or candidates are restricted from distribution of any of the footage or material, other than to show or present the material in its entirety, with proper credit given to PBS Hawai‘i. (i.e., excerpting for promotional spots, broadcast, webcast, podcast, or any other means of distribution now known or hereafter developed is prohibited).


This policy shall be reviewed by PBS Hawai‘i management on a periodic basis to ensure that this policy remains relevant and follows current law. When necessary, PBS Hawai‘i management may modify this policy.

This policy in no way limits or restricts the type or amount of political programming, candidate forums or news events that PBS Hawai‘i may decide to produce or cover, other than as specifically outlined in this policy. PBS Hawai‘i may select other media platforms to distribute political programs or forums, (i.e., additional digital channel coverage, websites, datacasting, podcasting, etc.).