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Political advertising: why do TV stations have to run it?


According to FCC law, there’s not much that a television station can do. Here’s why.

Political advertising is hard to avoid these days, and some people wonder why TV stations run misleading commercials or contain open lies.

Some viewers are annoyed by certain commercials and want to know why television broadcasters are obliged to do so.

When it comes to qualified candidates for election to the Federal Office, television broadcasters cannot reject their advertisements for any reason, not even for reasons of content.

According to the laws of the Federal Communications Commission, broadcasters cannot edit or censor.

“You must accept this ad, and the network has no liability for it being aired, even if it may be slanderous or defamatory,” said Joseph Watson, professor of public affairs communications, advertising and public relations at the Grady School of Journalism University of Georgia.

It means that a candidate could take a clip from an 11Alive newscast and manipulate it to look like a referral when it doesn’t. The law requires 11Alive to run the ad as it is.

Watson says the law is the same when it comes to an ad that contains open lies.

“You can’t decline it or edit the content,” says Watson.

Federal Communications Commission law requires broadcasters to give federal candidates “reasonable access” to airtime for advertisements.

“If you say I’ll run your ads at two in the morning, you might bring a case that doesn’t provide reasonable access,” said Watson.

Broadcasters can opt out of ads that violate federal profanity laws.

You can also opt out of ads from third party organizations such as the Political Action Committees, but not the candidates themselves.

The bottom line – you might not like the fact that there are so many ads or what they all say, but there isn’t much your local TV station can do.

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