Political Broadcasting for Noncommercial Educational Stations (NCEs)

  • Section 399 of the Communications Act states that: “No noncommercial educational broadcasting station may support or oppose any candidate for political office.”
  • Section 399B of the Communications Act states that no noncommercial educational broadcasting station may accept remuneration (funding) to:
    1) broadcast support or opposition to a candidate for public office
    2) express a view in support of or in opposition to a matter of public importance or interest.
  • Our hosts, producers, staff and management represent the station and the foundation when they are broadcasting over-the-air. They are restricted from having on-air opinions about candidates running for office.
  • Guests unaffiliated with the station or the foundation can have on-air opinions about candidates.

Overuse of guests repeatedly advocating for the same candidates or political issues associated with a candidate could become a problem.

  • On-air appearances of candidates running for office are permitted on bona fide news shows (which include public affairs programming) without having to file political reports.
  • An appearance of a candidate running for office on a non-public affairs show would require a political report to be submitted to the public file within a day or two of the airing of the show. An on-air appearance by a Legally Qualified Candidate running for office is considered a “use,” if the appearance is not a bona fide news event or broadcast. “Uses” can trigger Equal-opportunity Requests; then the station MUST provide comparable airtime for any other candidate that requests airtime.
  • Disclaimers are a good idea to air before all public affairs programming, especially if a candidate appears on a show, e.g.: “The views, thoughts and opinions expressed during this show belong solely to (insert program’s name) and do not necessarily represent those of (insert station name), or the Pacifica Foundation.”
  • Legislative Issues: IRS Restrictions. Charitable organizations are prohibited from devoting a “substantial part” of their activities to “influence legislation.” See 26 USC §501(c)(3). This includes “any grass roots lobbying” and that to remain safe, a station would need to keep any type of political lobbying broadcasts to less than 10% of total programming.

Please contact us if you have questions or need help:

  • Ursula Ruedenberg, Pacifica Affiliates Coordinator / 510-812-7989 / Ursula@pacifica.org 
  • Stephanie Schubert, Network operations coordinator / stephanie@pacifica.org