Late Friday, the FCC’s Media Bureau issued an order (at this time available in Word format only, here) clarifying its public file rules for political ads – both ads from candidates and from third-party groups. The FCC’s clarifications require broadcasters who run candidate or issue advertising to include information about not only the candidates mentioned in an ad, but also any Federal issues that the ad addresses. On sponsorship identification, the FCC focused on third-party ads, requiring that broadcasters make an inquiry as to the complete set of executive officers or the complete board of directors of any sponsor. The FCC went on to admonish a number of stations for violating the rules but, as the rules were just clarified, only admonished these stations rather than issuing any fines. This decision was in response to complaints filed by the Campaign Legal Center and the Sunlight Foundation alleging the public file omissions of these stations – complaints that we wrote about here.
The FCC’s order interprets Section 315(e) of the Communications Act, which sets the rules for the disclosures required for political ads. Under that Section, any political ad that deals with a legally qualified candidate, an election for a Federal office, or with any political issue of national importance, must disclose a variety of information. That information requires that, in connection with any request for political time, the station must disclose in its public file (1) whether or not the request was accepted, (2) the class of time purchased, (3) the price at which it was sold, (4) the name of the candidate that the ad addresses or the election to which it is directed or the issue discussed, (5) if the ad was bought by a candidate’s authorized committee, the name of the committee and its treasurer, and (6) if the ad was not placed by a candidate’s committee, the name of the sponsor and, where the sponsor is not an individual, the name of the sponsor’s chief executive officers or its executive committee or its board of directors, plus the name, phone number and address of a contact person at the committee. These requirements were clarified in several respects by the FCC’s order.
Continue Reading FCC Clarifies Public File Obligations for Identifying Issues and Sponsors for Political Ads – Admonishes Numerous TV Stations for Violations