This News Release: Text | Word97
FCC 99-231: Text | WordPerfect | Acrobat

fcclogo NEWS

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
TTY: 202/418-2555

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

Morgan Broman (202) 418-0256
Report No. MM 99-12 MASS MEDIA ACTION September 8, 1999

FCC Acts on Petition from Two Consumer Groups: Grants Federal Political Candidates Greater Flexibility in Purchasing Broadcast Advertising Time

Washington, DC --- The Federal Communications Commission, acting on a petition from the Media Access Project and the People for the American Way, has ruled that political candidates for the Presidency and the United States Congress should have more flexibility in purchasing broadcast advertising. Broadcasters generally require that commercial advertisers purchase time in one-minute or 30-second slots that may not be useful to a federal political candidate seeking to get a detailed message out to voters. The FCC ruled that candidates can not be barred from purchasing advertising time in lengths most useful for their purposes solely because broadcasters sell commercial time in 60-and- 30 second increments. This action reverses an October 3, 1994 FCC Declaratory Ruling that broadcasters need not sell or furnish legally qualified candidates for federal office time for political advertising in increments other than those which the station either sold commercial advertisers or programmed during the one-year period preceding an election.

The Commission believes that there may be a variety of circumstances where a federal candidate decides that the best campaign strategy involves the use of non-standard length advertising formats and the broadcaster can reasonably make the necessary accommodations. In particular, a candidate may decide that a five-minute program may be a more desirable option because of the expense of purchasing and producing a thirty- minute or longer program, and the brevity of a thirty- or sixty-second spot announcement.

The Commission also believes that a broadcaster can make adjustments to its' programming schedule that are not unnecessarily burdensome. To allow a broadcaster to categorically decide in advance that it will not sell non-standard time, such as a five- minute increment, absolves the broadcaster of even considering the possibility that it could do so.

Commenting on the ruling, FCC Chairman William E. Kennard said, "I want to thank the Media Access Project and the People for the American Way for reviving this debate over broadcast campaign advertising time. It seems to me that there is no solid reason for a blanket rejection of political spots that are of non-standard length. I think voters will benefit from political messages that are longer than a one minute- or 30- second spot. Candidates will be able to use this new flexibility to better inform voters and get a more complete message out."

    Action by the Commission August 27, 1999, by Report and Order (FCC 99-231). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Powell, and Tristani, with Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth dissenting and issuing a statement.

-FCC -

Mass Media Bureau contacts: Susan Fox at (202) 418-2600 or Bobby Baker at (202) 418-1440. TTY: (202) 418-1398 (Office of Public Affairs).