NAB: Judging compliance not stations' job

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TV and radio stations shouldn't be forced to determine whether political
advertisements and other programming comply with new campaign-finance laws, the
National Association of Broadcasters said Thursday.

In comments to the Federal Election Commission, the NAB urged the FEC to
declare that stations will not bear the responsibility of judging whether
specific ads and shows are prohibited under the new restrictions.

The FEC is considering rules that would implement the campaign-finance reform
enacted in March that prohibits corporations and labor unions from
"electioneering communications" on behalf of national candidates 60 days before
a general election and 30 days before a primary. The FEC is trying to decide
what types of programming are considered electioneering communications.

The NAB, which is challenging the law in court, said that even if the law is upheld,
only paid advertising should fall under the restriction.

But "good government" groups such as Common Cause and the Campaign and Media
Legal Center said there should not be a blanket exemption for public-service
announcements and other nonpaid programming.

"You could have corporations and unions paying high production costs for PSAs
that cast candidates in a favorable light," Campaign and Media Legal Center
attorney Glen Shor said in testimony before the commission.

The FEC held hearings on the proposed rules Wednesday and Thursday.

FEC vice chairman Karl Sandstrom, a Democrat, hinted that he would favor more
specific exemptions to reduce the need for case-by-case rulings after a
questionable program has aired.

"We can't decide after the fact that someone has committed a felony,"
he added.

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