Provision to save parties some green on ads has broadcasters seeing red


Broadcasters are already required to provide advertising to candidates for federal office from the bottom of the rate card, charging what is known as lowest unit rate (LUR). The Senate is looking to extend that privilege to the political parties, something broadcasters will fight hard to block.

According to The Hill, the bill’s Senate sponsor, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) believes the provision will make it easier for candidates to respond to attack ads coming at them from corporations or unions.

The LUR requirement would not kick in unless the parties are spending $50K or more.

Questions of committee jurisdiction have prevented the addition of such language in the House of Representatives. The Commerce committees have jurisdiction over broadcast matters, but there are others involved in election rules, the Rules Committee in the Senate and the Administration Committee in the House.

NAB’s Dennis Wharton said that the organization was still reviewing the bill, but acknowledged that it had “great concerns” about extending the reach of LUR provisions beyond the candidates themselves.

RBR-TVBR observation: Sure the airwaves belong to the people. But it was determined long ago that the best way to maximize the broadcast portion was to turn it over to private companies who program for and answer to the public, not the government. The public controls the airwaves by rewarding those broadcasters who do the best jobs programming their stations.

The fact that the government must license stations to avoid an interference free-for-all does not make them public megaphones for the use of politicians to show off their families and sling their mud.

Most of the political ads we see either seem to distort the issues or are so banal they are useless. We shouldn’t be talking about extending LUR to the parties, we should be talking about eliminating it for the candidates.