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Rosenworcel Wants to Update Political Programming Rules

The FCC will consider opening an NPRM to make two changes

The Federal Communications Commission is considering updating its political programming and recordkeeping rules for broadcast licensees for the first time in 30 years.

Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said two specific changes are designed to comply with statutory requirements and account for modern campaign practices.

The August commission meeting agenda has been released. It includes a notice of proposed rulemaking that, first, would revise the definition of “legally qualified candidate for public office.” If ultimately passed, this proposal would update the list of activities that may be considered in determining whether an individual running as a write-in has made a “substantial showing” of their candidacy. It would add use of social media and the creation of a campaign website to the list.

[Read: Changes to Radio Technical Rules Advance]

“At the time our current rules were drafted, social media and campaign websites did not exist,” the draft NPRM states. “Media coverage of recent campaigns on the national, state and local levels indicates that the use of social media has become an activity that bona fide candidates routinely use to solicit support, financial contributions and votes. Recent articles reveal that bona fide political campaigns use major social media platforms to advertise, connect with supporters, and fundraise, and that such engagement in social media use, for example, by creating a Twitter or Facebook account, typically increases donations for new politicians … In addition, social media platforms enable political campaigns to build support by disseminating campaign updates and targeting advertisements to potential voters, and they provide sophisticated tools to regularly measure user engagement.”

The draft 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.

If this NPRM is approved in August, these proposals would then be opened for public comment before the FCC would take action. 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.

A PDF of the draft NPRM is available on the Radio World website.