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FCC Expands Qualified Candidate Activity To Include Online

FCC's 2020 seal
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC has voted to expand the online activities that define a candidate, and to square its political file rules with the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).

FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel had teed up the item for a vote at the January 27 public meeting, but it has already been approved and so won't be on the agenda after all.

The Report and Order (R&O) voted and released Tuesday (January 25), revises activities fitting the definition of "legally qualified candidate for public office" to include creating a campaign website or using social media to further that campaign.

That definition has to do with whether a write-in candidate has made a "substantial showing" of their bona fide candidacy. If a TV station provides airtime to a legally qualified candidate for public office, it must make a similar provision to all other bona fide candidates for that office.

Cable operators can also take into account those online activities when it comes to equal opportunities and lowest unit charge requirements.

The R&O also revised the political file rules to extend political record keeping rules to issue ads -- ads that communicate a message on any political subject of national importance -- as well as campaign ads. ■

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.