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Broadcasters Must Remember FCC’s Political File Obligations This Fall

A high-profile U.S. Senate race and several congressional races that are generating national attention mean that Texas broadcasters are seeing a fair amount of political advertising activity this year.  It’s taking place more so in the metro markets, but small markets are reporting some statewide campaign buys.

Political sales activity brings with it several FCC requirements for the online Political File component of the station Public Inspection File.  Chief among these are the records a station keeps of sales made to legally qualified candidates, but also those sales made to third-party groups advertising in support of, or attacking, a legal qualified candidate.  

Certain congressional races in Texas metro markets are seeing much of the latter as national GOP forces cling to some traditionally Republican seats that Democrats hope to capture in November.  National Democratic Party groups are also spending significantly in those races.  The added interest, and the availability of these sales records online, mean that broadcasters will be highly scrutinized by the public, campaigns and even the FCC, for the timeliness and thoroughness of their political sales recordkeeping.

Attorney David Oxenford of TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer warns broadcasters it’s important to be vigilant.  He notes that for ANY request for advertising made by any legally qualified candidate, broadcasters must maintain the following information in the Political File:

  • Whether the request to purchase time was accepted or rejected;
  • If accepted, the rate charged for the ads in the advertising schedule;
  • The date and time that the ads are to be aired, with the exact times that they were aired to be added to the file after they run;
  • The class of advertising time purchased (which will be determined by the rights associated with the spots, e.g. whether they are fixed or preemptible, the daypart or rotation in which the spots will run, etc.);
  • The name of the candidate and his or her authorized committee, and the treasurer of the committee.

TAB is frequently asked by broadcasters how soon that information must be uploaded to the FCC site.  The FCC rule says it must be done as soon as practicable.  Oxenford advises “certainly within 24 hours” of an order’s receipt, with the only exception being “the details of the exact times that the spots ran, which can be inserted into the file when your traffic system generates those reports – provided that they must be provided sooner on request.”

Oxenford recently wrote about the FCC’s Political File obligations on his broadcast law blog and noted the additional requirements for third-party “issue” advertising, which can include ads placed by PACs and the like that either support or attack federal candidates for office.  One such requirement is to provide a list of the chief executive officers, members of the executive committee or the board of directors of the group making the buy.

TAB member stations should avail themselves of TAB’s political forms, created by TAB FCC legal counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, which are available for download in the Members section of

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.                                                         

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