From time to time, questions come up as to whether it is acceptable for broadcast stations to air ads from a political candidate which do not feature the voice or, for TV, the image, of the candidate. Ads from Federal candidates should almost never be missing the recognizable voice or image, as there are Federal Election Commission rules that specifically put the requirement on the candidate to appear on the spots in the “Stand By Your Ad” disclaimer (“I’m John Smith and I approved this message”). But sometimes ads from state or local candidates, in states where the Federal requirements have not been extended to local elections by the state legislature, may be missing the voice or image of the candidate. What are the implications for stations in airing such ads?
The most important implication is in the potential liability of the station for the content of the political ad. When an ad is a “use” by a candidate, the station cannot censor its content. It must be run as it is delivered to the station. Because a station cannot censor the ad, the station has no liability for the contents of the ad. So if the candidate defames his or her opponent, or violates copyright law, the station cannot be held liable for the content of the ad. We have written many times about this “no censorship” rule. As we wrote here, that rule (and virtually all of the political rules but for reasonable access) applies to state and local candidates just as it does to Federal candidates.
Continue Reading Political Candidate Ads Without the Candidate’s Voice or Image – What is a Station to Do?