Campaign-Ad Rules Confuse Cable Ops

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New Orleans -- Campaign-advertising rules were written for broadcasters, so for some thorny questions, cable operators must use their best guesses on ways to comply with candidate advertising demands this election season, panelists at the National Show here said Sunday.

For instance, some compliance rules apply to the “responsible” media outlet, but there have been no solid rules made on such hybrids and cable-broadcast regional news partnerships, attorneys said.

But some issues are clear, they added, such as the fact that federal election laws regarding ad pricing apply to state and local candidates, said Teresa Kennedy, assistant general council for Cox Communications Inc.

Many local systems incorrectly believe that the rules only apply to federal races, she said. Local systems must draft disclosure statements on how they sell time; keep political files at each local office (rather than a regional ad-sales office) that candidates can review; and track the factors used to compute the lowest-unit charge so systems can proactively issues rebates if a candidate overpaid.

Christina Burrow of law firm Dow, Lohnes & Albertson PLLC reminded operators that the cheapest ad rates only apply to candidate “uses,” defined as a positive appearance by a candidate’s image or voice, and not to issue or attack ads.

The broadest application of advertising rules applies within the election window, which, this season, includes the 60-day period preceding the November election.

Burrow urged operators to let common sense and fairness be the guide, especially in local elections. “Be careful. You can create bad feelings, and state governments can hurt you,” she warned.

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