Oxenford: Tag Political Ads With Names and Faces

WASHINGTON: State and local political ads require the voice or the picture of the candidate, despite rumors to the contrary, according to David Oxenford at Davis Wright Tremaine LLC.

“One... misconception that seems to be circulating this year is that an ad for a state or local political candidate does not need to have their voice or picture to be a ‘use’ under FCC rules,” he writes. “Only ‘uses’ are entitled to lowest unit rates and subject to the no censorship provisions. For some reason, agencies in several states have tried to convince broadcasters that, as long as a spot has a sponsorship identification at the end... that spot is a ‘use.’”

Not true, Oxenford says at DWT’s Broadcast Law Blog. An FCC ‘use’ requires the recognizable voice and picture of the candidate--even local and state candidates. He said some advertisers could be confusing a near decade-old rule change requiring federal candidates to personally identify themselves in campaign ads and state that they approve of the message.

“Perhaps some of the advertisers think that, because the law for federal candidate is so detailed, and because it does not specifically cover state candidates... there is no requirement at all for state and local candidates to appear in their ads,” he says. “But they are not correct. For a spot to be a ‘use,’ a candidate him or herself must have a recognizable voice or image in that ad.”

Oxenford said it’s not illegal for a station to run a state or local candidate’s ad without that person’s voice, but it would render the spot other than a ‘use’ as defined by the FCC. It would not be entitled to the lowest unit rates, for example, and is not covered by the censorship prohibition that does apply to ‘use.’

Oxenford’s complete post can be read at DWT’s Broadcast Law Blog.