The Federal Communications Commission requires television and radio broadcast stations to document and disclose political advertising requests and buys. FCC rules require stations to immediately upload records of all political advertising inquiries and purchases to the political file section of their online public inspection files.

Because political files are available online as part of stations’ online public inspection files, the FCC is reviewing broadcasters’ political files in connection with its review of renewal applications. With the Democratic presidential primaries in full swing and political spending outpacing previous elections, stations should review the FCC’s political advertising requirements and implement procedures to ensure their compliance throughout the 2020 campaign season. Lerman Senter’s full memo on the FCC’s Political Broadcasting Rules can be found here.

The Communications Act and Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (“BCRA”) require stations to maintain records of all inquiries and requests to purchase airtime either by a candidate or on behalf of a candidate, or any advertisement that communicates a message relating to any political matter of national importance — regardless of whether it mentions a candidate or not.

All records and documentation must be uploaded to the online political file “immediately,” which the Commission has generally interpreted as no later than 24 hours (or the next business day) for requests and orders, and as soon as they are prepared for invoices.

The NAB publishes Political Broadcast Agreement Forms that help broadcasters ensure they are compiling the necessary information for candidate and issue ads. The current version is the Form PB-19. These forms help stations gather the required information from potential political advertisers. NAB members and non-members can download the PB-19 from the NAB Store, with NAB members getting free access.