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FCC’s Political Broadcast Rules Apply to Local Candidates

While most political watchers’ eyes are on the Nov. 2 Texas constitutional amendment election, Texas municipalities are increasingly shifting their elections to the November general election date rather than use the traditional May uniform election date.

This means some stations in Texas are seeing local elections this November in addition to the constitutional amendment election.

For example, the cities of The Colony, Texarkana, and Missouri City, are holding council and/or mayoral elections on Nov. 2.

Whether stations’ municipal elections happen in May or November, TAB routinely gets asked whether candidates in such elections are subject to the FCC’s political broadcast rules.

The short answer is yes, because the vast majority of the commission’s rules apply to all “legally qualified candidates.”

For the most part, the FCC’s political rules make no distinction between a federal, state, or local legally qualified candidates, such as someone running for city council or school board.

David Oxenford, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer recently wrote that “candidates for state and local elections are entitled to virtually all of the political broadcasting rights of federal candidates – with one exception, the right of reasonable access which is reserved solely for federal candidates. 

“That means that only federal candidates have the right to demand access to all classes and dayparts of advertising time that a broadcast station sells.” 

Stations are not obligated to sell state and local candidates advertising time, but once a station sells time to one candidate in a specific race such as mayor, it must sell time to all legally qualified candidates in that race that make a request to purchase time.

TAB and Oxenford remind stations selling time in a municipal or school board election, the other FCC political rules, such lowest unit charge and political advertising recordkeeping, apply. 

TAB hasn’t seen advertising activity on any of the eight constitutional amendment proposals on the November ballot.

As TAB noted in a Sept. 7 Bulletin article, none of the proposed constitutional amendments is deemed controversial by veteran Capitol watchers – there will not be much demand to advocate for or against a measure using broadcast advertising.

View article

The article features brief explanations of the proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that are on the Nov. 2 ballot.

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

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