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KOMU Not Responsible for Election Campaigns

Posted: Mar 12, 2011 11:25 AM by Sarah Hill and Robert Kessler
Updated: Mar 12, 2011 12:25 PM

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COLUMBIA-During election season, there were plenty of political ads on the KOMU 8's airwaves. In fact, from September to November, we ran political spots from 30 different advertisers. Many ads took swipes at opposing candidates using their own information to make their arguments. You might wonder if KOMU-8 is responsible for the campaign ads it airs during commercial breaks. Most of the commercials on this and other stations were harshly critical of the other candidate. But were those charges honest and true?

MU Communications law professor says, "the broadcast station may not, in any way, censor that advertisement. It must run, the way the candidate wants it to run...If it is libelous or allegedly obscene or whatever. Furthermore, the station can't even timeshift it, if it thinks the content, for instance, would not be acceptable for children. What can the station do? I always say, 'hold your nose, run the ad."

So KOMU must run ads for federal campaigns and give equal access of its airwaves to candidates running for state and local offices, as required by law. The campaign is responsible for the content that airs, not the station. Third party ads are a different story.

Komu general sales manager says "if we are looking at an ad that comes from a third party group, that's different. There are more liabilities there. They don't enjoy that same non-censorship role that a candidate does. So, we are a little bit more diligent there. We'll look at the ads, ask for back up materials from those who support the ad, and again, if we can't make a determination, we will seek our legal council.

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