As we enter the final weeks of the 2014 election cycle, many political committees will take to the airwaves to make their final pitches to voters. Judging by the calls to our toll-free information line, many of those committees have questions about the disclaimers that must appear on their ads. This article answers some of the most common questions about disclaimers on radio and television ads.
What is the basic disclaimer language?
For messages paid for and authorized by campaign committees, the disclaimer must clearly state that the message has been paid for by the authorized committee. 11 CFR 110.11(b)(1).
For a communication that has been authorized by a candidate but has been paid for by any other person, the disclaimer must clearly state that the communication has been paid for by such other person and has been authorized by the candidate. 11 CFR 110.11(b)(2).
If a communication is not authorized by a candidate, the disclaimer must clearly state the full name and contact information – permanent street address, phone number, or website address – of the person or committee who paid for the communication, and state that it was not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. 11 CFR 110.11(b)(3).
What is the “Stand by Your Ad” language?
Communications broadcast via radio or television must include statements by the person or committee broadcasting the message indicating that they are responsible for the content of the advertisement. The “Stand by Your Ad” language is required in addition to the regular disclaimer. 11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)-(4).
Commission regulations establish a safe harbor for the following statements as satisfying the Stand By Your Ad requirements for authorized committees:
- I am [Candidate Name], a candidate for [office sought], and I approved this advertisement.
- My name is [Candidate Name]. I am running for [office sought], and I approved this message.
11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(iv)(A) & (B).
For messages not authorized by or paid for by a candidate or campaign, the regulations require that “_____ is responsible for the content of this advertising,” be spoken clearly, with the blank filled in with the name of the political committee or other person paying for the communication, and the name of the political committee’s connected organization, if any. 11 CFR 110.11(c)(4)(i).
How does this work on the radio?
The “Stand by Your Ad” language is spoken by either the candidate (for authorized committees) or a representative of the organization responsible for the ad (for messages not authorized or paid for by a campaign). 11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(i) and (c)(4)(i). In addition, the ad must contain the basic disclaimer language described above. For example, “XYZ PAC is responsible for the content of this advertising. Paid for by XYZ PAC and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Learn more at www.xyz.com.” See 11 CFR 110.11(b)(3).
How does this work on television?
Authorized committees may satisfy the Stand by Your Ad requirement with either an unobscured, full-screen view of the candidate making the statement, or a voice-over by the candidate, accompanied by a clearly identifiable image of the candidate (at least 80% of vertical screen height). 11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(ii). In addition, the printed statement must be included with the standard disclaimer appearing at the end of the message, and must be clearly readable. To meet the readability requirement, the statement must:
- Appear in letters equal to or greater than 4% of the vertical picture height.
- Be visible for at least four seconds.
- Have a reasonable color contrast with the background (e.g. black text on a white background).
11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(iii).
Example: A campaign ad might start with the candidate saying, “Hi, my name is Jane Q. Public, a candidate for Congress, and I approved this message.” After the substance of the ad, viewers would see the following, in white text over a black background, in letters occupying at least 4% of vertical picture height: “This message was approved by Jane Q. Public and paid for by Jane Q. Public for Congress.”
Example: For messages not authorized or paid for by a candidate, the Stand by Your Ad provision is satisfied by either an unobscured full-screen view of a representative of the committee making the statement, or by that representative making the statement in voice-over. As with messages by an authorized committee, the Stand By Your Ad language must be included with the basic disclaimer language in a clearly readable format, meeting the requirements described above: “This message was paid for and approved by XYZ PAC and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Visit us online at www.xyz.com.” 11 CFR 110.11(c)(4).
For more information on the disclaimers required on all types of public communications, please see our Campaign Guides as well as our Special Notices on Political Ads and Solicitations brochure. If you have questions, please call our toll-free information line for assistance at 800-424-9530 (option 6).