Public TV Ban on Political Ads

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a ban on political advertising on public television, concluding that it was within Congress’ authority to place such restrictions on such stations.

In an 8-3 majority opinion, Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown wrote that “the hallmark of public broadcasting has been a long-standing restriction on paid advertising. In a classic case of ‘follow the money,’ Congress recognized that advertising would change the character of public broadcast programming and undermine the intended distinction between commercial and non commercial broadcasting.”

Public stations are prohibited from running paid advertisements for for-profit entities, issues of public importance or interest or political candidates.

Public television broadcaster Minority Television Project had challenged the ban as a violation of the First Amendment.

The FCC had fined the broadcaster for running what it deemed were ads for Chevrolet, Ford and Korean Airlines. Although public broadcasters are allowed underwriting announcements, the agency had concluded that Minority Television Project had overstepped the boundaries between brand mention and commercial.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld the ban on for-profit and services advertising, but two judges struck down the statute’s ban on political advertising. The case was then heard en banc by the appellate court.

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