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Fri Apr 13, 2012, 09:49 AM

Court Declares Public TV's Ban on Political Ads Unconstitutional

So long non-commercial television, it was good while it lasted.

Will your children be accosted by ads from Mitt Romney and Barack Obama while watching "Sesame Street"? A court ruling today makes it a possibility (even if not a strong one).

Stating that there is no concrete evidence that political and public-issue ads would harm the niche programming of public TV and radio stations, an appeals court ruled the law banning such ads unconstitutional. A three-judge panel in California voted 2-1 that the First Amendment trumped the government's concerns.

The lawsuit in question was brought by Minority Television Project, a California nonprofit that operates San Francisco Bay-area public-TV station KMTP. The station was fined by the Federal Communications Commission for violating the ban on public stations' airing of paid ads from corporations.

The station sued the FCC, claiming the ban on ads violated its right to free speech. Public TV and radio stations have been barred from airing ads for or against political candidates, ads expressing view on topics of public interest, or ads for products placed by for-profit companies.

...

the court upheld the ban on product ads from for-profit entities. It's reasoning? The massive budgets of for-profit entities -- and their hunger for equally massive audiences -- could nudge programmers away from niche educational programming and toward lowest-common denominator fare seen on broadcast and cable networks.

While there is evidence that for-profit advertising would have an adverse effect on such programming, the court wrote, "neither logic nor evidence supports the notion that public-issue and political advertisers are likely to encourage public broadcast stations to dilute the kind of noncommercial programming whose maintenance is the substantial interest that would support the advertising bans."

Full post: http://adage.com/article/campaign-trail/court-declares-public-tv-s-ban-political-ads-unconstitutional/234111

5 replies, 898 views

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Reply Court Declares Public TV's Ban on Political Ads Unconstitutional (Original post)
salvorhardin Apr 2012 OP
Typical NYC Lib Apr 2012 #1
salvorhardin Apr 2012 #3
handmade34 Apr 2012 #2
salvorhardin Apr 2012 #4
Auggie Apr 2012 #5

Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 09:57 AM

1. "This episode of Sesame Street was brought to you by the number 1...

 

percent"

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Response to Typical NYC Lib (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 10:06 AM

3. I can't wait to see what kinds of paid ads will be determined to be in the public interest.

"Here at the American Beef Council we recognize the dreadful impact of childhood obesity. Recently our nation's Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack noted Lean Finely Textured Beef's role in fighting obesity in our children. That's why we're spearheading a campaign to get more Lean Finely Textured Beef into the diets of our nation's schoolchildren. Won't you contact your local school board today and let them know that you want your child's school to do everything it can to prevent obesity by including Lean Finely Textured Beef in every lunch? Don't let your child's suffering continue."

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 09:59 AM

2. so sad

the slow obliteration of funds for Public media is a very tragic thing...

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 11:11 AM

4. It should be noted that this station is non-commercial but not a PBS affiliate.

From Wiki:

KMTP-TV, channel 32, is an independent, non-commercial television station located in San Francisco, California, USA. Owned and operated by the Minority Television Project, KMTP's has its main studio and offices in Palo Alto, California, and transmitter situated atop Mount Sutro.

In 2004, the FCC levied a $10,000 fine against KMTP for showing paid commercials on a station with an educational license. While it is commonplace for PBS and similar stations to show underwriters' messages that resemble commercials, it is illegal for educationally-licensed stations, like KMTP, to show advertisements that do not meet the standards for underwriting announcements., KMTP appealed the decision in 2005, but the fine was upheld, prompting KMTP to file a lawsuit against the FCC in U.S. District Court the following year.

In suing the FCC, KMTP felt it was unfairly penalized by the FCC's rules concerning underwriting and not taking into account foreign language broadcasting. There are a number of independent non-PBS public television stations in the United States; other such stations include KCSM-TV in nearby San Mateo, KCET in downstate Los Angeles, the WNVC/WNVT MHz Networks group in Northern Virginia, WNYE-TV in New York City and WYBE in Philadelphia. The underwriting rules do not take into account foreign languages and the variations in pronunciations and meanings. KMTP carried out research to find out what the public interpreted a commercial to be. Using a numerical grading system certain aspects of a video clip were found by the public to "feel" like a commercial or not like a commercial. These findings were presented to the FCC as it did not depend on any particular words or phrases which can be misinterpreted when foreign languages are used. The FCC rejected KMTP's attempt to clarify the underwriting rules leaving KMTP with no choice but to take the matter to the courts.

The ultimate outcome of KMTP's lawsuit could have far reaching affects as it could re-define the very definition of what a public television station is. One of the main points is freedom of political speech, as the current underwriting rules have a chilling effect on KMTP accepting political spots as they could be interpreted as violating the current rules when broadcast in a foreign language. The Ninth Circuit Court is due to make its initial brief in March 2010 .

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KMTP

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Fri Apr 13, 2012, 12:15 PM

5. Advertisers look for economy of reach or frequency when buying time

Public Television hardly reaches the numbers nor demographics attractive to many advertisers. I hate this decision, and fear, as the lone dissenting judge wrote, that "huge sums spent on campaign advertising could have the same disruptive effect" on programming as non-political ads. But I don't think the ratings are there, in most cases, to attract political causes.

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