Clock ticking on the case of noncom political ads


Democrat and RepublicanThe Ninth Circuit ruled earlier this year that there was no reason that non-commercial stations should not run political advertising – and the deadline is approaching for the DOJ to decide on its next move.

According to an Associated Press report, the Department of Justice could ask the Ninth for a reconsideration of its split decision, or take the case up a level to the Supreme Court. Or it could do none of the above.

The ruling came as a surprise to everybody in a case in which the issue of political advertising on noncommercial stations was not at issue.

In the wake of the ruling, most non-profit stations have avoided taking advantage of the situation was everybody waits to see how it plays out. Federal agencies, notably the FCC, have also been in study-and-watch-for-developments mode.

While the sale of political advertising may be a boon to financially strapped stations, it may also be a highly disappointing addition to the program mix and turn off much of the the noncommercial audience. As such, many stations have announced they will not accept such advertising even if they are allowed.

Which raises the question as to whether a candidate could force carriage.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is why commercial broadcasters should think long and hard before objecting to traditional methods of funding noncommercial radio. The noncom audience would be a natural target for politicians, particularly the thoughtful news-talk fans that listen to NPR. The last thing broadcasters need is a heaping helping of competition suddenly thrown at them from the noncommercial community.