With the President declaring his candidacy for reelection in 2012, broadcasters thoughts may be turning to that election and the expected flood of money that may come into the political process. But visions of next year's elections should not be distracting broadcasters from their current political broadcasting obligations. I've received many calls this year about whether broadcasters need to provide lowest unit rates to candidates in the races that are going on in 2011 - including many municipal elections and some special elections to fill various political posts. As we have written before, if a station decides to sell time to a political candidate in a local race, that sale must be at the lowest unit charge for the class of time sold during the 45 days before a primary and the 60 days before the general election. While state and local candidates need not be afforded the "reasonable access" that applies to Federal candidates, that merely means that stations do not need to sell these candidates any advertising time at all, or that stations may limit the purchase by state and local candidates to only the dayparts during which the station has more inventory. But once the time is sold to one candidate in a race, most other political rules - including lowest unit charges, equal opportunities and the no censorship rule, all apply to the local candidate's spots.
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