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                           Before the
                Federal Communications Commission
                     Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of                 )
Complaint   and   Request    for )
Section 403 Investigation        )    EB-00-IH-0438


   Adopted:  April 3, 2001              Released: April 6, 2001

By the Chief, Enforcement Bureau:

In this order, we  deny the ``Complaint  and Request for  Section 
403 Investigation''  filed on  behalf of  Smithwick &  Belendiuk, 
P.C. (``Smithwick & Belendiuk''). The complaint generally alleges 
news distortion with respect to reports concerning the outcome of 
the Florida  vote in  the 2000  Presidential election  that  were 
broadcast on four  television networks  - ABC, CBS,  NBC and  Fox 
(collectively, ``the Networks'').   In this  regard, Smithwick  & 
Belendiuk states  that the  Networks, all  within the  same  time 
frame and all apparently relying on information collected by  the 
Voter  News   Service  (``VNS''),   incorrectly  projected   that 
Florida's 25  electoral  votes would  go  to candidate  Al  Gore. 
Smithwick & Belendiuk requests a formal Section 403 investigation 
before an administrative  law judge.  For  the reasons set  forth 
below, we decline to initiate an investigation.

 The  complaint  states  that the  Networks  broadcast  erroneous 
reports as to the  outcome of the Florida  vote while polls  were 
still open in parts  of Florida and in  other states outside  the 
eastern time  zone.  The  complaint characterizes  the  Networks' 
reports as ``critical piece(s)  of news distortion'' and  asserts 
that the Commission should initiate an investigation in order  to 
determine whether the  Networks' reports intentionally  distorted 
available exit  poll data  collected by  the VNS  or whether  the 
Networks' reports exhibited a reckless disregard for the accuracy 
of VNS's exit poll data.   Smithwick & Belendiuk further  asserts 
that the  investigation  should determine  whether  the  Networks 
knowingly or  recklessly made  inaccurate  statements as  to  the 
outcome of the Florida vote to generate ratings or to  manipulate 
or influence voting and the outcome of the Presidential election. 

Whether or not to begin an investigation under Section 403 of the 
Act is a  matter within  the Commission's  discretion.  The  mere 
fact that the Networks incorrectly  projected that Al Gore  would 
receive Florida's electoral  votes is not  a sufficient basis  to 
initiate such an investigation. Accordingly, we deny Smithwick  & 
Belendiuk's  complaint   and   decline  to   initiate   such   an 

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED THAT  the ``Complaint and Request  for 
Section  403  Investigation''  filed  on  November  28,  2000  by 
Smithwick & Belendiuk, P.C. IS HEREBY DENIED.

                              FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

                              David H. Solomon
                              Chief, Enforcement Bureau