NAB Says FCC Political Ad Orders are ‘Impracticable’

(Image credit: NAB)

WASHINGTON—With the 2020 presidential election just heating up, and a tidal wave of political ads certainly on the horizon, the National Association of Broadcasters has filed a comment with the FCC Media Bureau that says a trio of recent orders regarding properly labeling political ads will prove “impracticable, overly burdensome and statutorily and constitutionally questionable” for broadcasters and cable operators.

This stems from complaints filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Sunlight Foundation against 11 commercial TV stations in late 2019. It was alleged that the stations failed to maintain information in their political files as required by section 315(e) of the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC responded by issuing three orders that detailed requirements for broadcasters in labeling political ads in their filings.

The NAB, along with representatives from Fox Corporation and NCTA—The Internet & Television Association, has in turn filed comments addressing these orders and how they would negatively impact broadcasters.

“The Industry Parties expressed their overarching concern that the three Orders essentially imposed a strict liability standard on broadcast stations and cable operators, inconsistent with the FCC’s traditional deference to those entities when making judgements in the political programming context,” the comments read. It argues that the new requirements increase the chances of inadvertent noncompliance.

Rather, the NAB believes that the FCC should rely on good faith efforts of broadcasters and cable operators in disclosing the issues of political ads and the entities responsible for them.

The comments also delved into the FCC’s interpretation of “political matters of national importance,” calling it “overbroad, inconsistent with congressional intent and difficult if not impossible for broadcasters and cable operators to implement.” It notes that the Campaign Legal Center even acknowledged such actions as impracticable to draw “fine distinctions” between federal and state issues.

NAB also asked for clarification that disclosure policies for third-party ads are not applicable to ads purchased by federal, state or local candidates.

NAB’s full comments, as well as the original order, are available through FCC’s ECFS