In the 45 days before a political primary and the 60 days before a general election, ads by political candidates (federal, state, or local) airing on a broadcast station or inserted by a local cable system into the programming it transmits to the public are entitled to “lowest unit rates” (LUR). That means that candidates get the best rate offered or sold to a commercial advertiser whose ads are of the same class of time and running in the same daypart or on the same program. This includes getting the benefit of all volume discounts given to commercial advertisers without having to buy in the volume that the commercial advertiser would need to qualify for the discount. We have written more about the details of some of the issues with computing lowest unit rate (or “lowest unit charge”) many times before (see, for example, our articles here, here, and here).
In a request for declaratory ruling filed by the Florida Association of Broadcasters, an interesting question has been posed to the FCC – can other political advertisers who buy time during the LUR period be entitled to these low rates if they are “authorized” by the political candidate? Normally, such non-candidate political ads (usually referred to as issue ads) are charged much higher rates than those charged to candidates.