Why Is Phoenix TV Station KPNX Letting a Campaign Ad Call KPNX Newscasts ‘Fake’ On Its Own Airwaves?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and watching the 10 O’Clock news on the NBC affiliate here in Phoenix when an ad for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake popped up and here’s she started the spot: “Hi, Arizona, I’m Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor. If you’re watching this ad right now, it means you’re in the middle of watching a fake news program.”

Wait, what? KPNX – 12 News – is letting a candidate for Arizona governor use one of its newscasts to call KPNX newscasts fake? Do we need an intervention by M.C. Escher here, Doc?

– Fake Noose

Dear Fake Noose,

Yeah – bring out the corkscrews.

For starters, let’s look at Kari Lake’s minute-long spot.

What Lake says after her first statement is the key.

You know how to know it’s fake? Because they won’t even cover the biggest story out there – the rigged election of 2020. And rigged elections have consequences. We’re all feeling it. Soaring gas prices. A spike in homelessness. And an invasion on our border . . .

So why would 12 News put this obvious claptrap on its air?

Here’s what the station posted on its Verify page.

No, 12 News did not thwart Kari Lake from running a campaign ad

PHOENIX — Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake claims one of her campaign ads was supposed to air on 12 News during Monday night’s broadcast. The former television anchor suggested on Twitter that 12 News may have violated federal rules that obligate stations to broadcast campaign ads.

If stations don’t air a candidate’s ad or offer opportunities to buy air time, then the Federal Communications Commission can take action against the station’s license.

Memo to KPNX director of sales Chad Kemper: Not to get technical about it, but here’s what the relevant FCC regulation actually requires.

Section 312 [47 U.S.C. §312] Administrative sanctions.

(a)   The Commission may revoke any station license or construction permit –

(7)   for willful or repeated failure to allow reasonable access to or to permit purchase of reasonable amounts of time for the use of a broadcasting station, other than a non-commercial educational broadcast station, by a legally qualified candidate for Federal elective office on behalf of his candidacy.

Bottom line: KPNX can’t reject advertising for a legally qualified candidate for federal elective office, but the station could totally reject an ad for, say, gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake.

Except KPNX has not rejected her ad, which means this is less about FCC mandates and more about money, even if it means allowing a 2020 election denier to malign a legitimate news outlet on its own airwaves.

Paging Mr. Escher. Paging Mr. M.C. Escher.

CORRECTION: The Doc stopped before he got to this part of the FCC’s policy on Political Programming.

The FCC’s political programming and campaign advertising rules generally govern the circumstances under which broadcast stations and other regulatees air political-related advertisements.  The FCC’s Political Programming staff resolves issues relating to, among other things:

• “Reasonable access” by legally qualified candidates for federal office

• “Equal opportunities” (frequently referred to as “equal time”) for legally qualified federal, state, and local candidates

• The prohibition on censorship of candidate-sponsored ads

Presuming a Lake opponent was up on the air with ads, KPNX would have to accept her “fake news” spot.

The Doc regrets the error.

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