An active political broadcasting season is already upon us, with things more likely to get even more hectic between now and November. Are you ready to handle all of the FCC’s political broadcasting obligations? We’ve prepared an updated Guide to the FCC’s political broadcasting rules in a question and answer format, and it is available here. We hope that this Political Broadcasting Guide will give you a primer on many of the questions that arise in any political broadcasting season so that you can intelligently discuss the issues with your attorneys when issues arise, and with your staff and media buyers when dealing with routine matters. And the issues will arise.
Already we have seen a number of contested races, including a primary for the November elections recently held in Texas, and a special election in Florida to fill an open House seat. As in any other even-numbered year, all of the US House of Representatives and one-third of the seats in the US Senate will be filled in the November elections, and there are a great many elections for state and local offices, including many high-profile governor’s races, that will be contested this year. Check out our 2014 Broadcasters Calendar for some of the upcoming dates for primaries and lowest unit rate windows in your state. As explained in our Political Broadcasting Guide, there are things that you should be doing now to get ready for the political season, and you will have obligations to potential candidates once they become legally qualified candidates, even if you are not yet in the political window (45 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election). For instance, as we wrote here, reasonable access applies to Federal candidates even outside the political windows, and equal opportunities and the paperwork and public file requirements apply to all candidates as soon as they are candidates – even outside the actual lowest unit rate windows.
With more money in the political process than ever before, you can bet that in many hotly contested races you will see political advertising buys not only from candidates and their official campaign committees, but also from third-party groups. These groups are not entitled to all of the protections and privileges accorded to candidates, as we wrote here. We wrote about some of the potential liability that can face stations for untrue statements made in third-party attack ads (liability that does not exist when you run candidate ads, which you are not allowed to censor). Check out our Guide for more information on those issues as well.
You can also find a presentation on the political broadcasting rules that I did back in December in a webinar presented to the members of a number of state broadcast associations. That presentation provides a very quick outline of many of the political broadcasting issues. With the additional details that we provide in our Political Broadcasting Guide, we hope that this information helps you to prepare for the upcoming active political broadcasting season.