Lowest Unit Charge Obligations Go Into Effect Tomorrow (Sept. 6, 2002)
During the 45 days preceding a primary election and the 60-day period preceding a general or special election, broadcasters and cable operators must comply with the lowest unit charge (“LUC”) requirements of the Communications Act pertaining to all qualified political candidates. Because the general election this year takes place on Nov. 5, the LUC period begins tomorrow, Sept. 6, 2002.
During the LUC period, a candidate may not be charged more than the lowest unit charge paid by any other advertiser that cleared a spot for the same class of time, amount of time and in the same time period. "Class of time" generally means the degree of pre-emptibility assigned to the spot. "Amount of time" refers to the duration of the spot (30 seconds, 60 seconds, etc.). "Period of time" refers to the time of day during which the spot is designated to run (e.g., only during a specific program, from 7 to 9 am weekdays, run-of-schedule, etc.).
The test used to determine compliance with the LUC requirements is whether the political candidate was given the same price and treatment during an LUC period as the station's most-favored commercial advertiser. For example, a candidate running a single spot would be entitled to the same rate (for the same class, amount and time period) as a major advertiser that purchased hundreds of commercial spots at a bulk discount.
Broadcasters and cable operators are required to disclose to candidates all rates and discount privileges that are available to commercial advertisers. Rebate checks or "make-good" offers (offers for additional time due to candidate overpayment) must be provided “promptly,” generally within two weeks after the applicable spot runs, or more quickly as election day approaches.
Please contact us if you have any questions concerning applicability of these rules to specific situations.