A divided U.S. appeals court struck down a federal ban on political advertising on public TV and radio stations, a decision that could open the public airwaves to a heavy dose of campaign ads leading up to the November elections. By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the Federal Communications Commission violated the First Amendment’s free speech clause by blocking public broadcasters from running political and public issue ads. The court said the ban was too broad, and that lifting it would not threaten to undermine the educational nature of public broadcast stations. It upheld a ban on ads for goods and services on behalf of for-profit companies. “Public issue and political speech in particular is at the very core of the First Amendment’s protection,” Judge Carlos Bea wrote in the main opinion. “Public issue and political advertisements pose no threat of ‘commercialization’,” he continued. “Such advertisements do not encourage viewers to buy commercial goods and services. A ban on such advertising therefore cannot be narrowly tailored to serve the interest of preventing the ‘commercialization’ of broadcasting.”
Minority Television Project, a California non-profit, had challenged the FCC after being fined $10,000 for running paid ads from companies such as insurer State Farm and General Motors Co’s Chevrolet division on its KMTP-TV in San Francisco. “It is a significant victory,” said Walter Diercks, a lawyer for the non-profit. The government should not be “picking and choosing what is appropriate content.” The FCC had argued that the government has a significant interest in ensuring the airing of educational programming, many of which run on Public Broadcasting Service stations. It said if public broadcasters became more dependent on ads, they might create a void by replacing “Sesame Street” and other educational programming with programs that appeal to other viewers or listeners. The FCC had no immediate comment. A PBS spokeswoman declined to comment.
Full Article: Ban on political ads on public TV struck down | Reuters.