I’ve received several calls in the last week asking if the political broadcasting rules apply to municipal elections – such as elections for mayor, city council, or school board. Even though this is an "off year" for Federal elections, many communities around the country have local elections, and in some of those elections, candidates have sought to purchase advertising time on broadcast stations. Many stations don’t seem to remember that the lowest unit rate rules do apply to local races. The rules on rates, as well as the public file requirements, equal opportunities, and the no censorship rule all apply to state and local races, as well as to Federal candidates.
Only the reasonable access provisions of the FCC’s political broadcasting rules do not apply to state and local candidates. In other words, stations need not sell commercial time to candidates for any local political contest, or the station can set upfront limits on how much time will be sold in the race, but, once the station decides to sell time, if the spots are to run in the 45 days before the primary or the 60 days before the general election, Lowest Unit Rates do apply. And all candidates for the same office must be treated alike. The rules are mandatory – if you sell ads to candidates for public office within the window, the sales must be at lowest unit rates. So make sure that these rules are applied.