Court to reconsider noncom political ads


GavelThe Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that noncommercial broadcast outlets should accept and run political advertising. However, key noncommercial broadcasters don’t want it, and the Court has agreed to revisit its decision.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Department of Justice appealed the decision, and was supported by both the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio.

The Ninth Circuit had ruled that noncommercial stations could not accept standard commercial advertising on grounds that stations would begin to alter their programming to attract advertisers. But it determined that there would not have the same effect in the political realm, opening the door for political ads on the noncoms.

DOJ is arguing that opening the door to political ads would in fact impose “unprecedented commercial pressure” on the stations and would indeed tend to influence programming decisions.

The ruling allowing the ads moved forward on a 2-1 split decision. The rehearing will be before an 11-judge panel. It will take place in March 2013 at the San Francisco-based Court.

RBR-TVBR observation: As we’ve pointed out in the past, any new policy which seeks to eliminate funding for noncoms and allows them to replace it with the right to accept advertising is essentially a tax on commercial broadcasters. It would instantly inject a whole new layer of local competition in every market in America.

We believe that the ruling allowing political ads on noncoms was one of the more egregious examples of legislating from the bench that we’ve seen in some time. It came by surprise out of leftfield, and nobody seems to be in favor it, including in particular the organizations that one would think would be the primary beneficiaries – PBS and NPR.

This is one judicial decision that richly deserves to be overturned.