As we approach Election Day, the political ads seem to be getting more and more frequent, and often more and more nasty. With the rise in the number of attack ads, stations are facing more and more demands from candidates who are being attacked in these ads, asking that the ads be pulled from the airwaves because the content is not truthful or otherwise presents a distorted picture of reality. What do stations do when confronted with these claims?
We have written about this issue several times before (see, for instance, our articles here and here). In some cases, the stations can do nothing – if the attack is contained in an ad by a candidate or the candidate’s authorized campaign committee. If a candidate in his or her own ads attacks another candidate, the station cannot pull the ad based on its content. Ads by candidates and their authorized campaign committees are covered by the Communication Act’s “no censorship” provision, meaning that the station cannot (except in very limited circumstances) pull the ad based on its content (see more on the “no censorship” provision here). Because the station cannot pull the ad based on its content, the station has no liability if the candidate ad defames their opponent. The opponent’s only remedy is to sue the candidate who ran the ad. But what about allegedly false claims made in ads by third parties – like PACs, unions, political parties or other non-candidate groups?
Continue Reading Demands to Pull Political Attack Ads – What is a Station to Do?