Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Martin Kassman


Section 315 of the Communications Act prohibits broadcasters from censoring political candidates' commercials. What happens when a candidate runs an ad that tells lies about his opponent or someone else? What if a candidate uses obscene, indecent, or inflammatory language or images? The author reviews the cases that have come before the courts and the Federal Communications Commission. Although broadcasters have been held immune from liability for defamatory political broadcasts, that immunity is not explicit in the statute. It is unclear whether stations have the power to censor indecent or obscene political ads and whether they can be punished for airing them. The author argues that section 315 should be amended to make it clear that broadcasters never can be punished for the contents of candidates' advertisements.