ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on May 30, 2013

Unless you're being Hustled

It's always interesting to see how some of our elected officials--or those who want to be elected--react in the days before the polls open, especially those who think they are in extremely tight races. Complaining about coverage, or threatening those who provide the coverage, is standard practice, and has been for years. But it's always advisable to know the law when these public office holders, or wannabes, forge ahead with their bluster.

In the past several days, lawyers for several candidates for Congress have demanded that TV stations remove ads placed by their opponents. These ads, the politicians say, terribly distort their records. It's too bad these candidates, and especially their attorneys, didn't check the Equal Time Law passed by Congress more than 40 years ago, and updated in 1996 in the Telecommunications Act of that same year.

Although many federal regulations, including dictates from the Federal Communications Commission, have been relaxed over the past few decades, Equal Time for political candidates is not one of them. And nestled inside that law is something that might be of interest to these angry public officials demanding censorship. Few people know, or care, but the law specifically prohibits television and radio stations that are licensed by the FCC from censoring political ads in any way, unless those ads are considered obscene.

Consequently, these media outlets also cannot be sued for libel or invasion of privacy based on the content of the ads that they, basically, have no control over. The obscenity exception came in 1984 when a certain Larry Flynt ran for president. Yes, that Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler Magazine. In his TV ads for president, in talking about his publishing empire, several covers of Hustler were featured showing naked women. The television stations balked at running the ads, of course, and the U. S. Supreme Court said, okay, here's the exception to the rule. But everything else is off limits for censorhip. Even racial epithets. What candidate in his right mind would use such inflammatory and offensive words in a political ad aimed at persuading people to vote for him?

Take a visit to Kansas City, where a radio station a few years ago was prohibited from refusing an ad from an extremist running for U. S. representative. That particular ad slammed African Americans and Jews, but ran on the public airwaves anyway, even with a disclaimer from the station's general manager. The law says hands off those ads, and it means it.

The purpose of Equal Time, of course, is--in a perfect world--to encourage argument and discourse so an enlightened electorate can make the best choice. In practice, however, those high ideals fall short when polls tighten and office-holders get desperate. So pols and lawyers can yell and scream, but radio and TV stations (who rake in the bucks at election time anyway, thank you) will just have to, like the rest of us, hold their noses until November 6th.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)