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FCC Proposes Change in “Substantial Showing”

It opens an NPRM to tweak its political programming and recordkeeping rules

Seeking to update its political programming and recordkeeping rules, the Federal Communications Commission has opened a new notice of proposed rulemaking.

We shared the draft notice with you earlier and reported that the commission was planning to take this step; it now has done so.

This means the FCC will start taking public comments. Deadlines for those will be announced soon. The Media Bureau docket number for filing comments is 21-293.

Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has said the goal of the NPRM is to comply with statutory requirements and take into account modern campaign practices.

The NPRM would revise the definition of “legally qualified candidate for public office.” If ultimately passed, this would update the list of activities that can be considered in determining whether an individual running as a write-in has made a “substantial showing” of their candidacy. It would add the use of social media and the creation of a campaign website to the list.

The NPRM also would also revise the FCC’s political recordkeeping rules to conform with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 to include any request for the purchase of advertising time that “communicates a message relating to any political matter of national importance” (i.e., issue ads) and specify the records that must be maintained. The commission said the current rule language does not reflect the federal law on this question.

In addition to radio and TV stations, the changes would apply to cable system operators, Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) service providers and Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service licensees.

The commission noted that it had not has done a formal review to update the political programming and recordkeeping rules in 30 years.