Now Available: A 2020 Political Broadcasting Rules Refresher


WASHINGTON, D.C. — On July 30, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth attorneys Francisco Montero and Dan Kirkpatrick discussed some of the requirements and latest developments in the FCC’s political broadcasting rules with three of the agency’s political programming experts.

The conversation with Bobby Baker, Gary Schonman, and Sima Nilsson included the specific requirements and latest developments in the FCC’s political broadcasting rules, including equal time, lowest unit rates, PAC ads, BCRA, and record keeping.

With the 2020 election season in full swing, the webinar’s key points could help answer any compliance questions that you may have concerning political broadcasting.

The 90-minute event was presented in cooperation with the Colorado Broadcasters Association and the Florida Association of Broadcasters.

Among the key points shared: The Key Element of Political Broadcasting Is a Candidate “Use”

• A “use” must include a candidate appearance in an identifiable voice or picture
• Any “positive” appearance by a candidate is a “use”
• The appearance does not have to be controlled or approved by the candidate
• “Use” triggers “equal opportunity” for opponents of that candidate

Exempt programs include bona fide newscasts, news interview programs, documentaries, and on-the-spot coverage of bona fide news events (including debates).

Further, federal candidates are entitled to “reasonable access,” and this applies to candidate “uses” during an entire campaign period.

As such, stations cannot set flat “limits” on the amount or type of spots/program time that candidates can buy. But, stations may reject unreasonable requests and negotiate with candidates, and stations need not respond to “blind” requests for avails or time.

Federal access must be offered prime-time program time and may be excluded from news. But, it may not be excluded from any other category of programs and these candidates do not have a right of access to any particular program, day or day-part.

It is of note that non-commercial “educational” stations are exempt from “reasonable
access” concerns by Section 312(a)(7) of the FCC’s rules.


For a look at the whole deck from Fletcher Heald & Hildreth, please click here.