Too much political advertising on TV airwaves? Wait. Much more could be coming.
A decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco could pave the way for political advertising to find its way on public television or radio stations.
A divided 2-1 decision from a panel of judges said the ban of political advertising on public TV and radio stations violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
The court said the ban would not threaten to undermine the educational nature of public broadcast stations. But it did uphold a ban on commercials for goods and services on behalf of for-profit companies.
Increasingly public TV and radio stations have been allowing much more messaging of consumer product and service companies, under “sponsorship” models. But that messaging is not in the form of traditional TV commercials.
Estimates are that TV political advertising could hit a record amount to $3 billion or more for 2012. Another projection, from Borrell Associates, says that when including all money from PACs and some 13,000 state and local races, total advertising totals will hit $9.8 billion in 2012.
Judge Carlos Bea, writing the main opinion, said: "Public issue and political advertisements pose no threat of commercialization… By definition, such advertisements do not encourage viewers to buy commercial goods and services."
The lone dissenting judge, Judge Richard Paez, wrote: "The court's judgment will disrupt this policy and could jeopardize the future of public broadcasting. I am not persuaded that the First Amendment mandates such an outcome."