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FCC To Require TV Stations To Post Rates For Campaign Ads 106

Posted by Soulskill
from the dollars-and-sense dept.
bs0d3 writes "The FCC has voted to require broadcast TV stations to post online advertising rates they charge political candidates and advocacy groups. The vote came despite strong opposition from many broadcasters. 'By law, television stations offer political candidates advertising rates that are much lower than those offered to other advertisers.' Advocates argue the public should have easy access to information about how much candidates and other groups are spending on television to suck in voters. 'Network-affiliated stations in the top 50 markets will have six months to comply. For all others, the deadline is 2014.'"
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FCC To Require TV Stations To Post Rates For Campaign Ads

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  • Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by ral315 (741081) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @05:47AM (#39836487)
    This is technically true, but that's not the story. The story isn't that the rates will be available, it's that we'll know how much candidates spend, and where they're spending it.

    The rates themselves are, by law, the lowest rate that the stations charge (to avoid stations charging different rates based on whether they support that candidate) - so that's not really that informative. It's actually knowing that Candidate X purchased 800 points of TV time in Market A and 1200 points in Market B that is interesting. Currently, this information is available, but only by driving to the stations during business hours to view them, which is of course not very useful.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      The rates themselves are, by law, the lowest rate that the stations charge (to avoid stations charging different rates based on whether they support that candidate)

      In this line: in how far are stations allowed to accept/reject certain ads?

      For starters they have limited time in which to put advertisements (is there any regulation on that in the US? Such as no more than so many minutes per hour for ads on a TV channel?). So one candidate may simply buy up all advertising slots, and bring a few five-minute ads every hour.

      Secondly I know advertisements are sometimes rejected based on "objectional content" - content or a product that the media channel doesn't agree with or

      • So one candidate may simply buy up all advertising slots, and bring a few five-minute ads every hour.

        Though this seems like a strategic move, most (if not all) stations would recognize this as something that would drive viewers to change the channel. If I saw a long ad from <insert candidate's name here> I would find something else to watch. If I saw that ad showing up regularly I wouldn't go back to that station until the primary or general election was over.

        Candidates know that there is a fine line between wooing voters and pissing them off. It is not in their best interests to be identified as

      • The rates themselves are, by law, the lowest rate that the stations charge (to avoid stations charging different rates based on whether they support that candidate)

        In this line: in how far are stations allowed to accept/reject certain ads?

        For starters they have limited time in which to put advertisements (is there any regulation on that in the US? Such as no more than so many minutes per hour for ads on a TV channel?). So one candidate may simply buy up all advertising slots, and bring a few five-minute ads every hour.

        Secondly I know advertisements are sometimes rejected based on "objectional content" - content or a product that the media channel doesn't agree with or whatever.

        In the US, any qualified candidate (such as being on a ballot) has the right to run uncensored ads at the lowest available rate, as defined by US law and FCC rules. That doesn't mean he or she can buy up all the ad time - there are equal access rules to prevent that nor does a station have to sell them a spot for any specific broadcast, so a station can refuse to run an ad during the Super Bowl (as one did recently), they only have to provide "reasonable" access.

        Of course, someone could get on the ballot a

        • by ATMAvatar (648864)
          I'm waiting for a candidate to comes along and do campaign ads involving a ton of blatant product placement. The only thing I'm not sure about is whether the first will be a genuine candidate trying to offset campaign fees or if it is a clever corporation that puts up a fake candidate for cheaper advertising rates.
    • Re:Misleading (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @08:11AM (#39836895)

      Currently, this information is available, but only by driving to the stations during business hours to view them, which is of course not very useful.

      That is really the key point of this rule - it makes the information easily accessible; something it currently isn't. A recent NPR piece on this vote pointed out that stations can charge copying fees and one charged 50 cents per page which limits availability from both an access an economic perspective.

      At least broadcasters are being honest by saying they don't want their best prices to be too public because it will cost them money. OTOH, if I bought ad space i'd take the time to get this info from any stations where I was doing a buy so I could see how much of a premium they were demanding and try to negotiate a lower rate. I would not be surprised if some companies already do that; this just males it easier and potentially more wide spread.

  • by Tim Ward (514198) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @05:56AM (#39836511) Homepage

    "'By law, television stations offer political candidates advertising rates that are much lower than those offered to other advertisers"

    This sounds really bizarre to those of us who live in places where, by law, television statements may not carry political advertising.

    We sort-of have this theory that elections should be won, not bought. But only sort-of, mind, because money obviously still makes a difference. In my council ward for example I'm not allowed to spend more than a few hundred pounds getting elected - this is trivial for me, I just write a cheque, but it could be a struggle for others.

    • if you lower the price, then you level the playing field. If campaigns had to pay full price for political ads, then it really would be about who could raise the most money. (it still sort of is, but maybe slightly less so because of this law)

      Although right now we just saturate the airwaves with political ads, until everyone gets sick of it and refuses to vote out of protest for the annoyance it causes.

      • by Tim Ward (514198) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @06:33AM (#39836589) Homepage

        "if you lower the price, then you level the playing field"

        Well yes, in the UK the price is zero for this reason, but the amount of free time that the TV channels have to give to the candidates is limited to a few minutes - that's a few minutes for the whole campaign, not per day or per hour!

        People still get sick of the ads, sorry "party political broadcasts", and nobody much watches them apart from other politicians.

        • Here it's the same, and I love that time. Since every party including those who are just a guy and his family get airtime, there's some extremely funny stuff. I feel like I'm watching the Royle Family doing a political ad.

          • Funny (in the peculiar not the har-har sense) you should mention that. The guy out of the Royle Family appeared on some PPBs for some obscure leftist rabble a few years back.

            Despite being a professional actor he came over like a sack of mouldy wool. I wonder if he was taking the piss.

        • by ooshna (1654125)

          I work in a nursing home and my father is in one and let me tell you some seniors hang on to those ads like they are the god's honest truth. And damn do I wish i could block fox news on my dad's TV to hear him repeating Beck's rhetoric made my heart sink.

      • by wvmarle (1070040) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @06:34AM (#39836593)

        Lowering the price doesn't necessarily level the playing field.

        It allows candidates with smaller budgets to enter the game, but it also allows bigger budgets to simply buy more advertising time.

        The only way leveling the playing field in this would be to 1) prohibit political commercials and 2) oblige TV stations to set aside a certain time for political broadcasts, that is then shared equally between the various parties/candidates that participate in an election. This way every single candidate has their say 15 minutes of TV time, and all have the same amount of time to spread their views.

        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @07:16AM (#39836727)

          The only way leveling the playing field in this would be to 1) prohibit political commercials and 2) oblige TV stations to set aside a certain time for political broadcasts, that is then shared equally between the various parties/candidates that participate in an election. This way every single candidate has their say 15 minutes of TV time, and all have the same amount of time to spread their views.

          This won't level the playing field. The Incumbent always has the opportunity to try to bribe voters with a new law giving them a tax break of some sort. Which proposed new law, even if it never becomes an actual law, gets the Incumbent's name on the Evening News, and the morning talk shows, and the newspapers, and that sort of thing.

          All of which is free publicity.

          Eliminating political advertising altogether (which would pretty much require repeal of the First Amendment) would just make sure that the only political candidates you ever heard mentioned would be the incumbents....

          • by wvmarle (1070040)

            Actually I don't know of any country other than the US that allows this political advertising. And those democracies do just fine. Having a free media is important of course; one that will not only publish info abotu the incumbent but also the views of the opposition.

            And actually in my experience free newspapers tend to be critical of the government, and that way providing lots of this "free publicity" for the opposition.

          • by sincewhen (640526)

            Here in Australia, once an election is called, the government and public service go into "caretaker mode" which means no more lawmaking and public servants being extra careful to remain neutral.

            • In the US the public servants are generally neutral. In a bureaucracy it is best not to rock the boat when your position is not an elected post because you get a new boss every election cycle.

    • They've integrated it with major cutbacks in any education which might encourage (quel horreur) critical thinking, also.
      How convenient.

  • by anthony_greer (2623521) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @05:57AM (#39836513)

    I like this but I wish the FEC would grow a pair and make PACs and SuperPacs identify their donation sources. Tehy all have these cutesy names that mean nothing, you will hear things like "this ad paid for by Americans for an America in the tradition of Apple Pie and Chevrolet PAC" but for all you know that money could be coming from some oil man who just wants to have a friendly white house to his needs. Its no different than bill naming, if you want to take away freedoms and civil libertarians get upset, just call it the prevent terrorism and child porn act and they will shut up...

    The problem is also education, that is to say that so many people, after receiving a k-12 education in the US are so fucking stupid that they just believe the crap in these ads and propaganda in general, some critical thinking amongst the 90 percent who just go all out blindly for one party or the other would solve many of our issues.

    • just had a crazy idea, require honest names for superpacs, like "Halliburton execs for Romney" or "Goldman Sachs managers for Obama"

      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @07:12AM (#39836711)

        just had a crazy idea, require honest names for superpacs, like "Halliburton execs for Romney" or "Goldman Sachs managers for Obama"

        "Rich donors for the Rich"

      • just had a crazy idea, require honest names for superpacs, like "Halliburton execs for Romney" or "Goldman Sachs managers for Obama"

        Or "Earth slaves who hate Kang for Kodos"? ;-)

      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday April 29, 2012 @07:40AM (#39836807) Journal

        Won't work and here is why: Shell corps, which the USA really doesn't do little if anything to regulate. You see all GS or Halliburton would do is set up a dummy corp called "Freedom for the free' or some other bullshit name, bounce the money through two or three shell corps before it got to FFTF and voila! same problem we have now.

        Personally i have serious doubts anything can be done about the system until it collapses which i truly believe is inevitable now. The corruption is just too deep and too entrenched and any solutions would cause loss of power to those top 5% who frankly won't stand for it. Instead what we will see is BOTH sides grabbing more and more power for themselves, BOTH sides giving away money to their masters as fast as they can, and BOTH sides making sure the printing presses spin like tops.

        So I'm sorry friend and as much as the few optimists left like to call me a bastard for saying this I believe it to be true nonetheless, the only thing you can do now is grab as much for you and yours as you can and try to be as ready as you can be for the fall. Some have said that attitude will hasten the fall, but so what? if it crashes in 10 years or 15 will it really make any difference? The jobs are gone, the factories closed or closing, nearly half don't pay any taxes because they are too poor and more and more of the population can't even eat or clothe themselves without government assistance. and in all of this there is NOTHING you can do about it because you don't have enough money to buy congressmen and votes are worthless when both sides have been bought.

        So grab what you can and be ready, because even someone with a sixth grade education knows you can't spend more than you bring in forever but with both sides so bought and paid for and their refusal to see this most basic of realities means all you can do is be ready for when the whole rotten thing comes crashing down.

    • I like this but I wish the FEC would grow a pair and make PACs and SuperPacs identify their donation sources.

      Geez, don't you think money should be allowed to corrupt politics in private?

    • The FEC does not have the legal authority to "make PACs and SuperPACs identify their donation sources" or they would already be doing so. Just because they are called the Federal Election Commission does not mean they can unilaterally impose whatever regulation they wish on election related happenings. They operate under two constraints. First, they only have whatever authority Congress has delegated to them. Second, that authority must be one which Congress both Constitutionally has and which it is allowed
    • by jfern (115937)

      The FEC lost that one. The Supreme court ruled for Citizens United over FEC and now anyone can spend millions without accountability on political ads.

  • by jpapon (1877296) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @06:09AM (#39836543) Journal

    Network-affiliated stations in the top 50 markets will have six months to comply.

    6 Months, eh? You mean, the beginning of November? Once the election is pretty much over?

    • by Basehart (633304)
      Love it or leave it :-)
    • Network-affiliated stations in the top 50 markets will have six months to comply.

      6 Months, eh? You mean, the beginning of November? Once the election is pretty much over?

      Chances are that there will be some stations (or station groups) that contest this long enough to keep it from being enacted before this year's US Presidential election.

      • by Cylix (55374)

        FCC has sent some much greater punches down the pipe then a requirement to publish vote rates. Digital conversion has had much greater impact and was pushed out with even less notice. FCC dictates the term of the license and their rule is pretty much supreme. There are about a zillion mandates in the regulations from everything to programming to the antenna. It's a daily effort to stay in check with those regulations.

        Rates for political candidates are based on the lowest rate ever sold. Stations are pretty

  • That Fox News "charges" Republican candidates. I've been crawling around for five decades and I've never seen such a biased news network. It's amazing how all the radical right wing reporters end up at the same network. I find it hard to call a network news department "news" when they only show one side. All news is a dim shadow of what it once was. I think people would be shocked if they saw news reports from 30+ years ago compared to what passes for news these days. I call reporters "news bunnies" these d
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      The main problem of a channel like CNN is of course how to fill the time. There is usually not enough significant news in this world to full a 24-hour station, day after day. Some days of course have a lot of news to go around: when the US is invading yet another country, when there has been an earth quake and (if they're lucky) a big tsunami following it - then you can fill your day with constant updates about those events. Election days should also go fine, at least the few days before (final campaigns),

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I don't buy it. There are armed conflicts and politics going on all over the world at all times. There is a financial crisis in Europe progressing nicely. There is a narco war in Mexico. There are 50 states worth of US politics. There is Africa. Don't hear too much about that. And South America. You'd think the most interesting thing that happened there was a Secret Service agent fucking a local. Here's news: the US government has fuck a lot more than prostitutes in South America.

        There is 24 hours to cover

        • Some of those things require CNN to have a person on the ground in those places. That's expensive. They already have a lot of people in DC and they can report on the secret service and wars and the other superficial stuff just fine. (They may have sent someone to Columbia, sure, for a limited time, but in order to report on all that other world news they'd need to have people in hotels in all those places all the time.)

          Some of the other things require extensive investigative journalism, which means a pro

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Look, I'm not going to argue for or against the veracity of your comments here. I just need to say the following.

      Goddamn man, you must have one hell of a vendetta against Fox News to use the article/summary as a springboard into a rant about Fox News and its bias. Hell, after the first sentence, your paragraph has extremely little, if anything, to do with the article at hand and solely becomes about how Fox News has infected the news cycle.

      There's a time and a place for things. And, I suppose, you follow th

      • How your BS got modded up and his on-topic, correct comment got modded down shows the metamod system really needs more people participating in order to function.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      It rates.
      Murdoch, theif that he may be, is politically to the left of Obama (so long as somebody else's taxes pay for social programs), but he knows that selling weird wacko right of Ghenghis Khan bullshit to Americans is the way to get a lot of viewers and a lot of advertising money.
      That's why Fox keeps on drifting that way no matter what the reality is on any issue.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I spent some time just watching cnn and non british/bbc news while abroad. On return the differences were obvious. The cnn news was presented by talking heads that could just about read the autoQ. The advantage being that they didn't add interpretation or feeling to the presentation. (News content is another matter). The BBC new however was painful. Whenever a 'good thing' was presented the presenter would nod firmly and when a 'bad thing' was presented the head would shake. I can now happily avoid the cann

    • Cut them some slack, CNN is pretty good [youtube.com].

    • airwaves we all own

      See how easy it is to identify bias?

    • So, you have never seen MSNBC?
    • People forget that "news" reporting is a requirement of the FCC

      I'm pretty sure they were required to provide "service to the public", which was broadly interpreted to be covered by the "News". But I thought they repealed that requirement along with all the rest.
      The only thing the FCC regulates is titties.

  • Display how much was paid to air the ad as a watermark in a corner of the screen when the ad is aired.

    How much someone is being payed to say something seems like an important factor when to weigh when considering what is being said.

    • "How much someone is being paid to say something seems like an important factor when weighing what is being said."

      That got scrambled between brain and NIC. It's been a long night, what can I say.

    • Display how much was paid to air the ad as a watermark in a corner of the screen when the ad is aired.

      Better yet, display a dynamic overlay that shows the upper bound on your IQ if you believe what is being said.

  • I've paid for polls to know what you want in your area. I am now paying to say what you want to hear. I'll then do whatever I feel like when elected.
    • I've paid for polls to know what you want in your area. I am now paying to say what you want to hear. I'll then do whatever I feel like when elected.

      And you should expect me to "feel like" doing whatever will bring in enough bribes^w donations so I can pay for it again in the next election cycle.

      • Right, let me amend my original comment: Gather bribes(campaign contributions) to get money. Use money to pay for polls to know what people want. Use money to pay for TV ads to tell the people what they want. When elected, do whatever the people who bribed you tell you to do.
    • I've paid for polls to know what you want in your area. I am now paying to say what you want to hear. I'll then do whatever I feel like when elected.

      If we're playing To Tell The Truth [wikipedia.org] you're going to have to be a little more specific. ;-)

  • Wouldn't this law just favor the incumbent? They get lots of free air time through official government channels. The current social view on spending money on advertising is highly negative. This new law seems to be a de facto incumbent gerrymandering.

  • 'By law, television stations offer political candidates advertising rates that are much lower than those offered to other advertisers.'

    Why?

    • Because otherwise the TV stations could pick and choose which candidates get airtime by selective rate adjustments.

      • by PPH (736903)

        I think the 'Why' question was regarding the lower rates for political advertising, not the publishing of rates or a policy of uniform rates for all advertising.

        Personally, I'd like to see the broadcasters raise political and/or advocacy rates up to the standard ad rates. That would throw such a large wrench into the whole campaign funding process that it might force Congress to actually fix it.

  • Here's our local station's advertising rates:

    1. Lies: $10,000 /minute
    2. Damned lies: $50,000 /minute
    3. Polling results: $200,000 /minute
  • > By law, television stations offer political candidates advertising
    > rates that are much lower than those offered to other advertisers.

    But that's...

    Aaaargh. If anything, political ads should have to pay *extra*. Triple, even.

    The only kind of ad that should pay a higher rate than political ads is anything that talks about feeling "not so fresh".

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