Member Login

Forgot Password?
Need Login?

You are here: Home > News & Events > News > Federal candidate…
Welcome, guest: Login to your account

Federal candidate sponsorship identification clarified

TAB has confirmed a sponsorship identification clarification it will make to the TAB Legal Guide on Political Broadcasting that affects only federal legally qualified candidates. 

Under state law, the words “political advertising” (or their abbreviation “pol. adv.”) are required before naming one of three possibilities of who sponsored the ad after the words “paid for by” in any commercial deemed “political advertising”. 

This goes beyond what federal regulations require, which is simply “paid for” or “sponsored by” along with the identity of the actual buyer of the advertising spot.  

For many years, the law was understood to apply to federal and state candidates alike.

Pursuant to a question raised by a TAB member station, TAB reviewed the sponsorship identification requirement with our state legal counsel Jackson Walker LLP. 

TAB also conferred with the general counsel’s office of the Texas Ethics Commission.

Both confirmed that the disclosure requirement in state law does NOT apply to federal candidates for elective office. It only applies to state or local candidates. 

Therefore, commercials placed by legally qualified candidates for President, U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives need only have the words “paid for” or “sponsored by” and identify the actual buyer of the advertising spots in the sponsorship identification.  

The words “political advertising” or its abbreviation are NOT required in advertising by federal candidates for elective office.  

TAB is in the process of securing a written confirmation of this re-interpretation from the Texas Ethics Commission.

Stations should note that there are other content requirements in federal candidates’ advertising that are spelled out in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.  

Under BCRA, an ad by a federal candidate must not only contain the “paid for” or “sponsored by” language, but there must also be a statement of approval by the candidate.

If the proper BCRA language is not included, and the spot mentions the opposing candidate, the candidate forfeits his right to lowest unit rates (though it is still an open question as to whether a station may voluntarily give the candidate that low rate).

Under FEC rules, a federal candidate’s spots must contain similar disclosures whether or not the spot mentions an opposing candidate.

So most spots for federal candidates should already contain the appropriate language when they arrive at the station.

The failure to have that language is not the station’s responsibility (the candidate is the one who will get fined if it is missing), so a station cannot refuse an ad that does not containing the BCRA language, nor can the station on its own edit the spot to add the language.

However, if the spot does not contain the BCRA language, and the spot mentions an opponent, the station is not required to charge lowest unit rates.

The exact language of the BCRA tag differs slightly for radio and television, and the FEC and the FCC also have slightly different requirements. However, the requirements are essentially as follows:

For television

A verbal statement by the candidate that he or she approved the ad (required by FEC for the candidate, but not by FCC); and either:  

  • A full-screen view of the candidate, or
  • An image of the candidate (80 percent of screen height);

and, in either case:

  • A clearly readable written statement of the approval and the name of the sponsoring committee (four percent of screen height, four seconds duration, sufficient color contrast to be readable).

For radio

  • An audio statement by the candidate in which the candidate identifies himself, identifies the office for which he is running, and states that he approves of the broadcast.
  • The ad must also state that the candidate’s committee has paid for the spot.

Stations should note that while radio ads must state the office for which the candidate is running, that does not need to be part of the audio for a television ad.  

Remember, BCRA requirements do NOT apply to ads placed by legally qualified candidates for state or local office.  

Some states have adopted these measures for state and local candidate advertising, but Texas is NOT one of them.

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

« Back to News Archive
« Back to Latest News