WTVM Editorial 10/19/22: Rules For Political Ads

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 12:19 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - We’re all seeing a LOT of political ads on local television stations these days and that will continue, in even larger numbers, until election day on November 8th.

One reason is: television works.

It’s still by far the most effective medium for advertisers and especially political advertisers who have just thirty seconds to make a lasting impression.

But there are some strict rules about Political advertising on television that you may not know about, so I thought I’d share the basics with you.

First, Election Law says any candidate for office must be given equal access to the airwaves. That means we must sell politicians advertising time, just as we sell commercial time to any other advertiser. We can’t and don’t – pick and choose which political ads to air.

Also, candidates may only be charged what is called the lowest unit rate. That’s the lowest cost for a TV commercial airing at the same time that any other station client pays.

But many candidates choose instead to pay a higher rate.

They do that to guarantee their political ad runs in a certain program – a college football game, for instance, or at a certain time, such as during the 6pm newscast.

Paying the higher rate ensures the candidate’s ad will air exactly when and where the candidate wants it to.

Also, you might not know that federal law protects candidates for federal office, that is the offices of President, House of Representatives, or US Senate, from having their political ads edited or censored…in any way…even if the ad contains outright lies.

Yes, that means any federal candidate can produce a political ad containing errors, distortions, half-truths, obvious falsehoods, or even repulsive images.

Federal law says those political ads cannot be edited, censored, or refused in any way by local TV stations.

The political spot must air exactly as is. This protection does not extend to candidates for local or state offices, just Federal candidates for Congress and the White House.

Knowing how political advertising works is just one part of being an informed voter.

We produce numerous candidate profiles throughout our regular election season news coverage.

We do that to help voters understand the issues and each candidate’s position.

Because voters should never just rely solely on the political ads they see to choose the best candidate for the job.