Ban on Political Advertisements on TV and Radio

Legal Compliance Resource
December 4, 2013 — 1,071 views  

Public TV as well as radio stations in the United States will no longer be allowed to run paid ads for political candidates and corporations. An old law of the country which banned these public stations from displaying any sort of paid ads for political parties and firms was upheld by one of the federal appeals court recently.

The U.S. Court of Appeals of San Francisco in its ruling of 9-2 said that the government has a considerable interest when it comes to imposing restrictions on advertisements to be able to preserve the very essence of public broadcast programs. Both National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service had appealed to the court to allow the law to be considered constitutional.

Restriction on Ads Necessary

Congress realized that advertising can change the very essence of public broadcast programs, if such restrictions are not imposed. Apart from that, they can also fade away the distinction between noncommercial and commercial broadcasting.

The ruling has reversed a 2-1 verdict given by the three-judge court panel last year. This panel had termed the law to be unconstitutional. A lawsuit brought out by Minority Television Project Inc. was ruled in by the court. MTPI is a nonprofit group in California which operates a public television station named KMTP. This station, which is based in Palo Alto, was charged by the Federal Communications Commission when some other broadcaster complained that the station was underwriting announcements for marketers like Ford, Korean Airlines, and Chevrolet. The station sued the FCC saying that a ban on ads was nothing but violation of the rights of freedom of speech of the station.

This ruling allowed the standing of a federal statute of 1981. It prohibited public stations from broadcasting paid advertisements for political candidates, as well as advertisements on important public issues and interest, plus advertisements of for-profit firms. 

Supporters Happy With the Ruling

Spokeswoman for PBS, Jan McNamara, expressed her happiness over the decision. She said that in case of dismissal of the ruling, public broadcasters would have been pressured to change the distinctive content as well as nature of noncommercial programs.

Supporters of the law have also displayed their fear about turning public broadcast stations into forums where political ads are attacked, which can result in damaging their capacity to highlight public affairs, as well as educational programs like Sesame Street and PBS NewsHour.

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