Court OKs political ads on public stations

A court of appeals on Thursday struck down a law that bans political ads on public TV and radio stations, clearing the way for campaign ads on the public airwaves.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned part of a law that prohibits public broadcasters from airing ads for political candidates or causes. 

The ruling comes ahead of a general-election campaign that will likely bring record spending on political ads, and could give candidates and outside groups another avenue for reaching voters with paid media spots.

In the 2-1 ruling against the ad ban, Circuit Judge Carlos Bea cited the First Amendment and wrote that the law "burdens speech on issues of public importance and political speech."

The judges left intact a portion of the law that prohibits advertising for commercial goods and services. 

Public radio and television broadcasters have long been prohibited from airing any sort of advertisement outside of sponsor acknowledgment. The court ruling could clear the way for the airing of "issue ads" that are political but don't mention specific candidates. 

In upholding the section prohibiting for-profit advertising, Bea wrote that the Court was attempting to exercise restraint by invalidating as little of the statute as possible. 

A representative from the Association of Public Television Stations did not immediately return request for comment.

The case was Minority Television Project v. F.C.C. 

— This story was last updated at 6:31 p.m.