Fact Finders: Can TV stations edit or label campaign ads as misleading?

“It’s a way of helping to inform the community, even if some of the commercials or advertising is misleading.”
The campaign for the U-S Senate seat in Missouri is already heating up. And, it’s triggered a question for Fact Finders.
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 9:42 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The campaign for the U-S Senate seat in Missouri is already heating up. And, it’s triggered a question for Fact Finders; “Why don’t you edit campaign ads that are misleading or false? Or at least put a disclaimer on them?”

A Vicki Hartzler for Senate Ad says in part, “I won’t look away while woke liberals are destroying women’s sports.”

We’re not saying this is misleading or inaccurate. But, we did get a lot of questions about why we’re airing this Hartzler ad.

It features a transgender swimmer from the University of Pennslyvania. Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle to become the first known transgender athlete to win a Division I national championship. Then, she placed last in the 100-yard freestyle swim.

Some viewers thought we should put a disclaimer on the ad. But, The Communications Act of 1934 and FCC rules forbid that type of action by a T-V station. We can’t edit or censor ads by Billy, Vicki, Eric, Lucas, or anyone else in Missouri’s U-S Senate race.

“It’s a way of helping to inform the community, even if some of the commercials or advertising is misleading. But the law forbids you to make any changes to advertisements paid for by the candidates themselves. Now from third parties, you can put disclaimers, and you can decline to.., to, to run it,” explained Missouri State University Constitutional Law Professor Dr. Kevin Pybas.

TV stations are also forbidden from trying to hide or bury campaign ads by running them in the middle of the night. Federal candidates are required to get what’s called reasonable access to the airwaves. Now, if a candidate’s ad violates obscenity laws, TV stations can decline to run the ad.

So for this question; Why don’t you edit campaign ads that are misleading or false? The answer is we are not allowed to do that.

The ad did trigger a second question about the number of transgender high school athletes in Missouri. So, we reached out to the Missouri State High School Activities Association. A spokesperson told us, “There have been a total of five applications approved since the current policy was enacted in 2016. There have been three students wishing to participate as male and two wishing to participate as female. There are currently 0 this year.”

If you have something you want us to investigate email us at factfinders@ky3.com.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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