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Have you seen a few political campaign ads recently? OK, so you’ve seen lot. Here in [locality], political advertisements are flooding our television airwaves. It is hard not to see a campaign ad when watching television.
Many of these campaign ads are being run by “outside groups” that are supposedly independent from the candidates. These ads threaten to spread misinformation and studies have shown they contain a higher level of both attacks and inaccurate statements than candidate campaign ads.
The League of Women Voters has long worked to ensure that voters receive fact-based, nonpartisan information about our elections. We are concerned that many of these non-candidate TV ads are leaving voters confused and disgusted. In the worst case, some [locality] voters may decide not to vote at all. This concerns us deeply as the League wants all eligible citizens to vote.
Because of our concerns, the League of Women Voters, in partnership with the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is launching the Truth in Campaign Advertising project. The [locality] League is working with our local TV stations, urging them to provide the public what we need to make informed decisions on Election Day.
We’re asking the public to join us in showing community support for TV stations to exercise their legal rights for fact-checking non-candidate ads if the station believes the ad is inaccurate or misleading. (The same rules do not apply to advertisements run by candidates – but stations can run fact checking segments in their news shows about these.)
Stations already have processes they use for consumer product ads. We are asking them to be as vigilant about “outside group” ads. We also hope our community’s newspapers, as an important source of information to the public, will join us in encouraging our local stations to implement practices for requesting changes in non-candidate campaign ads if the station believes the ad is inaccurate or misleading. Also to encourage stations to run ad “fact-checking” segments on candidate ads and those from outside groups as part of their news programs. This would provide viewers with nonpartisan, objective analysis of the political ads being run. (More information is available at www.lwv.org and search “Truth In Campaign Advertising”.)
We know that many of these “outside groups” are paying local television stations top dollar to run their ads. While the TV stations must by law offer qualified candidates a discounted rate (“lowest unit charge”) that the station gives their best customers, there are no limits on what the station can charge these outside groups. It must be difficult for TV stations to reject such a well-paying ad since it is a high-profit transaction. The League wants to show community support for the practice of fact checking political ads and applaud TV stations when they choose to fact check the information being delivered to us as viewers and voters.
Local television stations remain the source of most Americans’ news and information. The League knows voters desperately want genuine, factual information to help them make their own best decisions on Election Day. By holding non-candidate advertising to the same standards used for product advertising, and doing fact checking segments in their news programs, the local station is performing an important service for their viewers – and our democracy.