Why are misleading campaign advertising allowed on television? – WCCO
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We are still 53 days from the election, but political TV commercials are already filling the airwaves. As in previous campaigns, some of the campaigns currently airing can stretch the truth.
Therefore, several WCCO viewers wanted to know: Why are misleading campaign advertising allowed on television?
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“Whatever these ads say, the broadcaster must run them as they were submitted,” said Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota.
The Federal Communications Commission requires broadcasters to broadcast political ads by federal candidates. These ads cannot be edited or changed. According to Kirtley, the FCC has decided that even graphic or false political advertisements from a candidate cannot be censored.
If a broadcaster wants to advertise a candidate for a government office, the broadcaster must advertise for the opponent (s) of that candidate.
“If it’s false, defamatory, or slandering another candidate, that candidate would have the right to sue,” Kirtley said. “But they couldn’t sue the station.”
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The FCC has a different standard for third party or political group ads. Stations are allowed to refuse them, but that is rare. Earlier this year, North Carolina television stations posted an ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee attacking a Democratic candidate for the US Senate. The group reformulated the ad and it went back on the air.
In Minnesota, the Fair Campaign Practices Act makes lying in a political report a crime. The courts have made this difficult to prove because they need to prove that the person who ran the ad knew or had reason to believe the ad was wrong.
Kirtley points to a long history of robust political debate to explain the strong protection of political communications in the United States
“Maybe a lot of people are not comfortable with this, but the Supreme Court has upheld it because it all comes back to who this is,” she said. “That’s the bottom line – who decides what’s going on?”
Ultimately, she believes it is up to the broadcasters to review the ads, even though it’s not a state or state requirement.
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“I really hope journalists keep their feet on the fire,” said Kirtley. “I hope the public will ultimately decide whether journalists are about to write stories about these ads so they can make their own decisions.”