Today’s news in the broadcast business seems to be that Google, which has been announcing for months that it was going to start selling broadcast advertising time – may actually now be selling that advertising. Stories this week, like those in CNet or in the Washington Post, focused on the test marketing of radio ads by Google in a few radio markets. While many in radio debate the business wisdom of an on-line auction of broadcast advertising time, the arrival of the electronic marketplace seems to arrived. But is the FCC ready for this development?
We’ve written before about the impact of on-line sales on political broadcasting rules, and our take on how these ads should be treated, but the FCC has not yet given any definitive guidance on their treatment for lowest unit rate purposes. Does the fact that an on-line advertiser does not know the identity of the specific station on which he is buying advertising mean that the ad should not be counted when the station tries to figure its lowest unit rate? Or does the ad need to be packaged with ads on other stations to qualify as a "network spot" exempt from lowest unit rate considerations on individual stations? Or will the FCC give all on-line ad purchases a pass from such consideration? Perhaps by the time that political spots for the 2008 election start running (probably in less than a year for some Presidential candidates), these issues will be resolved.