The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice making clear that lowest unit rates (or lowest unit charges) end on Election Day. Some broadcasters had asked the question, fearful that there would be political advertising bought after Election Day to take positions on issues about counting the vote and other legal matters that could arise in a contested election and, if that advertising was bought by the campaign committees of those standing for election today, lowest unit rates would still be in effect.
In recent days, we have seen presidential primaries delayed by the coronavirus in at least six states. We expect that additional states will be looking at extensions in the coming days. As lowest unit rate windows had already opened in many of these states, the postponement will result in the presidential candidates getting another 45-day window for those low rates in advance of the rescheduled primary date.
It’s election season, and for the 60 days before any general election, stations are required to charge candidates the “lowest unit rate” for comparable advertising time that runs on their stations. That means that, for each class of advertising time on any particular station, the candidate can only be charged the lowest rate at which any spots was sold to a commercial advertiser for that class of time during the particular period in which the candidate’s spots will run. That 60-day period begins tomorrow, so broadcasters should be ready to provide the candidates with these discounted rates for the next 60 days.
Tomorrow, Sept. 7th, marks the beginning of the final stretch for political advertising. That’s the first day of Lowest Unit Charge Season, the 60-day period before the Nov. 6th general election. During that time (which also occurs in the 45 days before a primary election), broadcast stations may charge no more than their lowest rate for each particular class of ad time purchased for a “use” by a legally qualified candidate.