Who to Ask for When You Call the Station
Many Leagues are already connected with their local TV stations through joint work on candidate debates or forums. If so, start with the people in the station you already know and ask for a meeting. With stations where you don’t have a relationship, call and ask for the General Manager.
- Explain that you are calling of behalf of the local League of Women Voters and would like to set up a meeting to discuss the station’s practices for handling campaign advertising.
- If told that the General Manager is unavailable, request to meet with the News Director.
- Tell them you expect the meeting to last about 30 minutes.
(NOTE: If you can not your find local station information via searching the web first, please email Meredith at Facts@lwv.org to see if she can assist you).
Who Attends the Meeting at the Station
It is best if you can take a small group (2-3 is ideal) to your meeting with the television station.
- Meet beforehand and outline the points to be made and who will lead the meeting and who will speak to each point.
- Review the information in the Truth in Campaign Advertising toolkit.
- For further questions, this FCC publication is helpful: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/public-and-broadcasting-july-2008
What You Should Say
At the meeting, everyone should introduce themselves and indicate where in the community they live. The leader of the meeting should:
- Thank the General Manager/News Director for agreeing to meet and explain the purpose of the Truth in Campaign Advertising project, including how the campaign is consistent with the League’s long-standing efforts to ensure an informed electorate.
- Make clear that you do NOT expect the station to reject campaign ads from outside groups. You are there to support the stations in exercising their rights to ensure the accuracy of the non-candidate ads. Those rights include the power to require a change in ad if the station believes the ad is inaccurate or misleading. Stations already have processes they use for consumer product ads. We are asking them to be as vigilant about third party ads as they are about product ads.
- Explain that you understand the station cannot censor or request changes in ads from qualified candidates, but that the standards for ads from “outside groups” are different.
- Be clear that you value the station’s role (and partnership with the League if there is one) in serving the community’s information needs and you are there to support the station and to make sure the public understands that the station is fulfilling its statutory responsibility and exercising its rights.
What You Should Ask
First, focus on questions regarding “outside group” requests to buy ad time.
- Ask if the station has a procedure for determining if ads from “outside groups” (also called “third-party ads”) are factually correct.
- (Outside of “Battleground States”) Has the station sold or had requests to buy airtime for campaign ads from “outside groups”.
- If the station has a procedure, ask them to explain how they are implementing the procedure.
- If they don’t have a formal procedure, do they have an informal procedure for dealing with false advertising of consumer products? What is it?
- Have they asked any outside groups to change a proposed ad? If so, can they provide you with the details of that request and any changes made in the ad.
- Have they rejected a campaign ad from an outside group? If so, can they provide you with the details of which ad(s) were rejected and why? If yes we’d like to applaud their efforts to keep things factual, can we share that publicly?
Second, ask if the station is running a “fact-checking” segment for campaign ads as part of their local news segments.
- If so, when does it run and how do they decide which ads are reviewed?
- Are campaign ads from outside groups included in the “fact checking”?
- Are they fact checking all campaign ads or only the presidential race?
- If not, would be they willing to include a fact-checking segment in their local news between now and the election?
- Are they are aware of fact checking information available from the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s resources, such as “A Guide for Effective Fact Checking On –Air and Online” and fact checking information at www.factcheck.org which focuses on the presidential race?
- Other fact-checking resources include www.politifact.com, www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker, and the Associated Press’s “Fact Check” service for its subscribers.
- Explain that the League is going to be publicly urging all the local stations to reject or request changes to campaign advertisements from “outside groups” if the station believes the ad is inaccurate or misleading. The League is also going to publicly urge the TV stations to run “fact check” news segments that analyze campaign ads run by outside groups.
- Note that the League has undertaken this effort because we see a record number of political advertisements from outside groups flooding the television airwaves in communities across the nation. Many of these “outside group” ads threaten to spread misinformation - as studies have shown that these ads contain a higher level of both attacks and inaccurate statements than candidate campaign ads.
Third, make sure the General Manager is aware that the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania will be awarding the prestigious Cronkite/Jackson Prize recognizing TV journalists' best practices in reducing the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.
- Make politely clear that you intend to monitor the station’s activities and hope to follow up in early October. Thank the General Manager/News Director profusely for his time.
- Please do NOT use these meetings with the local television stations to talk to them about money-in-politics, e.g., the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. This is not the focus of the “Truth in Campaign Advertising” project. Staying focused on our call to help “reduce deceptive information” to serve the voters will help the stations also stay focused on what they CAN accomplish now.
- Also, be aware that for many of the TV stations, these campaign ads are key revenue streams and thus they are hesitant to reject these ads. So our focus is to encourage them to join us in reducing the misleading information coming out through these ads.
What You Should Do Right After the Meeting
Right after the meeting, those who attended should share among themselves their impression of the meeting and ensure there is agreement as to what they heard.
- Take notes of what you’ve heard and share back with LWVUS within a day of the meeting, the leader should send a report through this easy to use form summarizing the results of the meeting.
- The leader of the meeting should write/email a “thank you” for the person you met with.
What You Should Do to Follow up and Inform the Public
- One of those who attended the meeting should send an “op-ed” [LINK to SAMPLE] to the local newspaper regarding the Truth in Campaign Advertising project and explaining what you asked the TV station.
- Members of the local League should submit “Letters to the Editor” [LINK to SAMPLE] to the local newspaper urging the local TV stations to fact check TV campaign ads from outside groups.
- Other local League members should send emails or post comments on TV stations blogs (1) for those TV stations that have and are implementing fact checking policies, thanking them (2) for those TV stations that are running fact checking segments on their local news, thanking them (3) for those stations that are not, urging them to do the two activities.
Consult the “Step by Step Easy Action Guide” information sheet for other follow up activities.
If you need help, contact Meredith McGehee, Project Director of the Truth in Campaign Advertising: firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-841-4400.