What are the broadcast rules for negative ads?

January 6, 2010 3:59:21 PM PST
A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate has released another inflammatory political ad, which stations are required to broadcast because of a FCC law. Even if the ads are not true, they are allowed to be broadcast because the law requires it. During a political season, voters are subject to plenty of negative advertising. Political experts say inflammatory ads are rare- but not for Republican Andy Martin.

Martin is a candidate for the U.S. Senate. He has the legal right to say anything he wants about his opponent, Mark Kirk, on and off the air. Martin is taking full advantage of that.

"It's very simple. It's to inflame the electorate," said Andy Martin, (R) Candidate for U.S. Senate.

Martin tried inflaming the electorate last week with radio ads that questioned Kirk's sexual orientation. On Wednesday, Martin hit the airwaves with radio spots accusing Kirk of covering up former Congressman Mark Foley's affairs with Congressional pages.

Kirk's campaign did not respond to the latest ad. The radio stations airing the spots don't have a choice but to sell the time to Martin because the Federal Communications Act requires it.

"As long as you candidate running for federal office, then the broadcast stations must give you reasonable access and may not censor your ad," said Rick Morris, Northwestern.

Following some controversial abortion ads in the early 1990's, the law changed allowing stations to air a disclaimer for inflammatory political ads.

"It's permissible to put a disclaimer before the ad that it doesn't reflect the views of the station," said Morris.

The Illinois Republican Party backs Kirk. While the party denounces Martin's ads, Chairman Pat Brady supports the First Amendment and believes Martin has the right to air them.

"It doesn't hurt Mark Kirk. And I think that voters, at the end of the day, will remember that he was over serving Afghanistan while Andy Martin was going through the holidays with these ridiculous accusations," said Brady.

When Martin's first inflammatory ad came out last week, Kirk was on an active tour of duty in Afghanistan. He is back and is scheduled to speak at the Union League Club Thursday.

Martin said there are more ads to come.