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No, media cannot censor candidate campaign ads

Federal law requires broadcasters to accept candidates' political ads regardless of content.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

PHOENIX — Several recent campaign ads for a U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona have a lot of viewers asking why 12 News allowed the controversial piece to air.

The answer: 

We don't have a choice. 

Federal law requires broadcasters to accept candidates' political ads regardless of the content. Stations are not allowed to reject or censor them.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can revoke any station license for failing to allow a legally qualified candidate to purchase ad space. 

Broadcasters are also not allowed to charge more for political ads. 

"The law is pretty clear that a qualified candidate that is on a ballot or can otherwise show they are a bonafide candidate for any political ad has a right to air an ad," said Gregg Leslie ASU professor and executive director of the First Amendment Clinic.

The FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, according to its website.  The commission is the federal agency responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.

Jim Lamon, a former energy executive, is running for Arizona's Republican Senate nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. Lamon has placed an ad on 12 News and other stations around Arizona that includes a phrase that has become a synonym for a profane chant toward President Joe Biden.

Lamon more recently released an ad for the Super Bowl, according to The Washington Post, in which he dresses as a sheriff and fires a gun at actors portraying Kelly, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Arizona elections

Arizona has a statewide primary and general election this year which includes a gubernatorial race, secretary of state and attorney general, among others. 

  • August 2, 2022: Primary
  • Nov. 8, 2022: General election

RELATED: Rating the governor's race: Arizona candidates get early jump on campaigns to succeed Ducey in '22

RELATED: Before she embraced Donald Trump, Kari Lake signed on with Democrats as Barack Obama's fortunes soared

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