This Letter is in response to the Journal’s editorial published on Sept. 18. It was disappointing to hear that the executive director of Iowa's Broadcast News Association is apparently confused about what TV stations can do to help ensure Iowa voters have accurate information about this year's elections. Let's be clear.
It is true that the stations are required to air (and are barred from censoring) federal candidates’ ads. But no such requirements apply to the ads of non-candidate outside groups, also known as third-party groups, that are playing such a large role in this year’s campaign. TV and radio stations have no obligation to air outside group political ads at all and have the unquestioned right to insist on the accuracy of the “independent expenditure” ads they accept.
As the website of the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) notes: "Broadcasters are responsible for selecting the broadcast material that airs on their stations, including advertisements. The FCC expects broadcasters to be responsible to the community they serve and act with reasonable care to ensure that advertisements aired on their stations are not false or misleading" (www.fcc.gov)
By airing news pieces debunking deceptions in political material in their markets, stations can take a second step to protect their viewers from inaccurate ads. Working with the League of Women Voters, the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania is providing models of effective fact-checking practices and also posting a log of the fact-checking done on the misleading claims in the third party ads. We reject the idea that it is “overreaching and naive” to expect that much from our media.
As the November elections near, it is important for Sioux City and all Iowa voters to get factual information so they can make their own best decisions. We hope our television and print media here in Iowa, which provide such an important service to our community, will be a part of the solution and not be confused by inaccurate information about stations' rights and obligations. - Bonnie Pitz, Newton, president, League of Women Voters of Iowa, and Theresa Weaver-Basye, Sioux City, president, League of Women Voters of Sioux City