Embattled Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has been trying to get Alaska radio and television stations to stop running ads that are coming from into Alaska from out of state, but also from right across the aisle in Stevens’ workplace on Capitol Hill. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is funding the ads. One on radio discusses an alleged sweetheart car deal, and the television ad discusses an earmark which was ultimately beneficial to Stevens’ son. Lawyers for the Stevens campaign have warned the stations that they may be sued for running false ads; lawyers from DSCC say the factual underpinnings of the ads come from the news and documents related to Stevens’ indictment on corruption charges and the ads are entirely permissible. So far, only a handful of stations in Fairbanks ceased running the ads, and even they put them back on the air after a short moratorium to assess the situation.
RBR/TVBR observation: Broadcasters should try to keep blatant falsehoods off the air, but they are not the thought police. Stevens would certainly love to eliminate negative advertising aimed his way, but if the stations pull them, they stand a chance to be set upon by a pack of attorneys unleashed by DSCC. Stevens is no doubt aware of this – he is probably making the legal threats just to get the threat out there. But if he really wants to go after somebody, he’ll need to go after DSCC, and use a courtroom as his venue, not the GM offices at local broadcast outlets.