Passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) imposed another new obligation on broadcasters when broadcast matter constitutes an “Electioneering Communication.” A station must maintain and make available for public inspection, a complete record where a request to purchase is made, or a spot is bought, or furnished and it:
• is made by or on behalf of a legally qualified candidate for public office; or
• communicates a message relating to any political matter of national importance;
A message of national importance is presumed to exist where it relates to:
• a legally qualified candidate;
• any election to Federal office; or
• a national legislative issue of public importance.
Note that the latter could include any of a multitude of issues, including state issues. For example, a discussion about California air pollution laws being proposed for autos might impact auto manufacturing generally and thereby trigger national pollution control issues, or national employment issues were it to shut down a factory, or international trade issues were it to raise manufacturing costs that would make American goods uncompetitive with imports.
The public file for Electioneering Communications must contain information regarding:
• whether the request to purchase broadcast time is accepted or rejected by the licensee;
• the rate charged for the broadcast time;
• the date and time on which the communication is aired;
• the class of time that is purchased, and
• the name of the candidate to which the communication refers and the office to which the candidate is seeking election, the election to which the communication refers, or the issue to which the communication refers (as applicable)
Gregg Skall is a Washington DC based attorney specializing in all things media and FCC. If you have a comment, suggestion, or want more information, you can reach him at (202) 857-4441 or [email protected].