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WCPO General Manager Jeff Brogan explains how political advertising works

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Political commercials and messages are everywhere you turn -- your social media accounts, on radio and television stations and websites like WCPO.com.

You don’t have to look far to understand there’s a lot of money in the 2020 election. In fact, estimates are projecting that candidates and political action committees, also known as PACs, will spend more than $6 billion trying to get American votes.

When you live in states with competitive races such as Ohio and Kentucky, you can expect to see more advertising than the average American during this election cycle.

Through the primary elections this spring and now into the summer, spending by candidates hasn’t stopped. That alone is a good indication that a lot more may be on the way, leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3.

Many of you have reached out to us here at WCPO 9 asking legitimate questions or feedback such as:

"Why are you running all of these political commercials?"

"That political ad is full of lies!"

"How can you run the content in that ad?"

That’s why we thought it was important to explain how the political advertising business works for broadcasters like WCPO 9.

There are a couple of important factors you should know.

WCPO 9’s ability to broadcast its signal into your home is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, also known as the FCC. As part of our license with the FCC, we must follow federal laws in order to stay in business and continue providing you news and other programs.

Under the FCC rules for political advertising, broadcast television stations are required to air ads for all federal candidates and most state candidates. The candidates are protected by the FCC’s “no censorship rule,” which prevents the stations from refusing an ad or running it at times viewers are less likely to see it due to content. Those rules also prevent us from editing or revising the content of the ads. In other words, they must run as provided to us by the candidate.

You also will notice advertisements from PACs. Those commercials are funded by private groups who are for or against a candidate/issue. These PAC ads are not regulated by the FCC.

WCPO 9 and our parent company, E.W. Scripps, support the freedom of speech principles of the First Amendment, which emphasize a robust and open debate about the political process. Although some of today’s political action committees might use aggressive tactics during the campaign season, their ads fall under free speech and have a right to be on a broadcast.

In each of the political commercials the candidate or PAC must identify who is responsible for the advertisement either by using audio and/or putting it up on the screen. If you have objections to the messaging in a political ad, that’s who you will want to contact to express your concerns.

A resource you may want to check out is the Federal Election Commission. Here you can examine how much money a federal candidate raised and spent.

What we can continue to do at WCPO 9 is make a commitment to give you complete, unbiased news coverage. We realize that there are many sources for your news on the election and appreciate that you turn to us for fair, factual coverage.

Jeff Brogan is the Vice President and General Manager at WCPO9. He is a native West Sider. Jeff can be reached at jeff.brogan@wcpo.com.

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