FCC Political Broadcast Rule Changes Effective July 5posted on 6.27.2022
– Recordkeeping and Candidate Status Affected
One change adds to the list of candidate/campaign activities that are used to determine whether a write-in candidate may be considered a “legally qualified candidate” for purposes of the FCC’s political regulations.
The Communications Act does not define the term “legally qualified candidate,” but the FCC has adopted a definition and codified it in section 73.1940 of its rules.
It matters to broadcasters because only “legally qualified candidates” are entitled to lowest unit charge rates for broadcast time.
Additionally, other key provisions applying to legally qualified candidates would also apply such as reasonable access and recordkeeping.
The FCC said in order to be considered a “legally qualified candidate,” an individual must publicly announce his or her intention to run for office, must be qualified to hold the office for which he or she is a candidate, and must have qualified for a place on the ballot or have publicly committed himself or herself to seeking election by the write-in method.
If seeking election by the write-in method, the individual, in addition to being eligible under applicable law to be a write-in candidate, must make a “substantial showing” that he or she is a bona fide candidate for the office being sought.
Under the FCC’s update, the commission has added the creation of a campaign website and the use of social media as candidate activities that can be used determine substantial showing.
The FCC also adjusted its political recordkeeping requirement to include requests for time for issue advertisements related to “political matters of national importance.”
It brings the commission’s political rules in line with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, passed two decades ago in 2002.
Attorney Gregg Skall of Telecommunications Law Professionals PLLC said the order “does not affect or modify any rules or requirements relating to advertisements that discuss state or local issues of public importance.”
He notes that for state and local issue ads, broadcasters are only required to comply with the FCC Sponsorship Identification Rule in section 73.1212(e) of the FCC’s rules.
“This includes advertisements regarding a state or local election or ballot initiative, which the FCC has indicated is, by its nature, a local matter even if the election or initiative relates to issues that are being discussed on a national scale,” Skall said.
“In these instances, the FCC has indicated it will rely on the reasonable, good-faith decision of the broadcaster as to whether the issue is local or discusses an issue of national importance requiring compliance with the public file rules.”
Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.
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