Watchdog urges noncoms to reject negative political ads


GavelFree Press has seen the Ninth Circuit ruling on political advertising on noncommercial stations and it is not happy. It is asking noncoms to just say no when approached about running campaign ads.

According to Free Press, KPBS in San Diego has already stated that it will not accept political advertising. In a statement, KPBS said, “It’s not our intention to make money off elections via political advertising — rather, KPBS will remain committed to educating the voters.”

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made is particularly worried about negative advertising flooding noncommercial airwaves. He said, “Polluting public broadcasting with misleading and negative political ads is not in keeping with the original vision of noncommercial broadcasting. And it’s certainly not the solution to funding public media. At a time when people are turning to public broadcasting to get away from the flood of nasty attack ads, viewers don’t want to see Sesame Street being brought to them by shadowy Super PACs.”

Like many, the ruling left Free Press scratching its head. It noted that the headlines generated by the ruling look like something out of the satirical newspaper The Onion.

The organization urged PBS and NPR to stand firm against a wave of political advertising and continue to bring in funding as it always has, saying that is how the majority of Americans want it.

RBR-TVBR observation: How many cans of worms are opened with one simple ruling? And forget about the legal side. As a practical matter, one would think there isn’t a noncommercial station in the nation that has the administrative infrastructure in place to even begin to handle advertising operations.

On the legal side, we believe that political action committees don’t have any special right to airtime, so we suspect that noncoms should be able to rebuff their approaches at will if they so desire. But the same cannot be said about a candidate’s campaign apparatus. Candidates do have rights they can enforce.

This is just the most out-of-the-blue, surprising, crazy ruling we can remember seeing in the broadcast field.