Political Broadcasting Rule Changes Partially Take Effect

Posted on February 28th, 2022 by

The tweaks to the political broadcasting rules adopted in the FCC’s January 25, 2022 order were published in the Federal Register on February 10, 2022.  As a result, on March 14, 2022, the rule change amending the definition of “legally qualified candidate” will go into effect.  The rule change added the use of social media and creation of a campaign website to the existing list of activities that may be considered by stations in determining whether an individual running as a write-in candidate has made a “substantial showing” of his/her bona fide candidacy.

The other rule changes aligning the FCC’s political file rules with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 will not take effect until after the Office of Management and Budget approves them, and the FCC issues a subsequent public notice announcing the effective date.  These changes formally extended the FCC’s political file requirements to any request for the purchase of advertising time that “communicates a message relating to any political matter of national importance” (i.e., issue ads).  The records that must be placed in the political file for an issue ad are (a) whether the request to purchase broadcast time is accepted or rejected; (b) the rate charged for the broadcast time; (c) the date and time the communication is aired; (d) the class of time purchased; (e) the issue to which the communication refers; and (f) the name of the person purchasing the time, the name/address/phone of a contact person for that individual, and a list of the chief executive officers or members of the executive committee or of the board of directors of the group purchase the time.  Broadcasters should remember that the FCC has been enforcing this requirement anyway because it was federal law, so stations should be following these steps now without regard to the effective date of these rule changes.