A divided federal appeals court on Monday upheld a federal ban on political advertising on public television and radio stations, rejecting an argument that it unconstitutionally violated the First Amendment.
By an 8-3 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco let stand a 1981 federal statute that prohibits public stations from transmitting paid advertisements on behalf of political candidates, issues of public importance or interest and for-profit entities.
Supporters of the law have expressed concern about turning public stations into new forums for airing political attack ads, undermining their ability to emphasize public affairs and educational programming such as "PBS NewsHour" and "Sesame Street."
The case dates back a decade, when the Federal Communications Commission fined Minority Television Project, which operated KMTP-TV in San Francisco, $10,000 for running paid ads from companies such as Ford Motor, General Motors, Korean Air Lines and State Farm.
Writing for the 9th Circuit majority, Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown said the FCC statute targets "the real threat—the influence of paid advertising dollars.''
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