Now that we are immersed in the heart of the political broadcasting season, issues of sponsorship identification regularly arise. For on-air broadcasts, any paid advertisement that conveys a message dealing with any controversial issue of public importance (state or federal) requires at a minimum an on-air sponsorship identification stating that the ad was “paid for” or “sponsored by” the person or organization that paid for the time. Federal candidates have a more extensive obligation for identifying themselves in their ads, particularly if they mention an opposing candidate. These identification rules come both from the FCC (which stations need to enforce) and from the Federal Election Commission, which are the responsibility of the candidate and their campaign committee. To help sort out some of these obligations, and the requirements for political disclosure statements and federal candidate certifications that entitle them to lowest unit rates, check out this video that I prepared for the Indiana Broadcasters Association as part of a series on political broadcasting topics: https://www.indianabroadcasters.org/iba-news/political-advertising-requirements-with-iba-washington-counsel-david-oxenford/
The video covers the requirements of broadcasters to ensure that the proper sponsorship identification is contained in political advertising. Online political advertising, however, is much more complicated as there is no single body of law that governs those responsibilities. As we wrote here, the FEC has general requirements providing that online political advertising must have sponsorship identification. The FEC also has an open proceeding to mandate more stringent sponsorship identification obligations akin to those required on broadcast and local cable political advertising. Last week, the Congressional Research Service issued a study on the state of the law regarding online political advertising, highlighting the many issues involved in providing more robust political disclosures. These issues are at least partially triggered by the many players involved in online advertising sales. There is a very readable outline on pages 16-19 of the report on all the players in the digital advertising ecosystem – with intermediaries, including demand- and supply-side platforms, that complicate the usual direct interaction between the media outlet and the advertising buyer, which in turn complicates the political compliance process for sponsorship identification. The study, on page 18, even cites to the article that I wrote discussing the concerns about sponsorship identification in any programmatic political advertising.
Continue Reading Sponsorship of Political Advertising On-Air and On-Line – A Video Presentation and a Congressional Research Service Study