Many times the difference between winning an election and losing is a handful of ballots. This is true in races for almost every elected office, referendum, and issue on the national, statewide, and local level.
To win a modern election requires advertising. Successful advertising requires reach. In the Boston area, the most potent way to reach voters is on local radio.
The Boston area includes the counties of Essex MA; Middlesex, MA; Norfolk, MA; Plymouth, MA; Suffolk, MA; plus portions of Worcester, MA; and Hillsborough, NH.
Last week, for instance, 90.6% of all registered voters in these counties tuned-in to a Boston radio station. This is significantly more than were reached by local TV, local newspaper, or the major social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Talking to registered voters, though, is not always enough. Because voter turnout can vary greatly for any given election, it is critical advertising reaches likely voters. In the Boston area, the people most likely to vote are radio listeners.
Unlike most politics, radio is bipartisan. Boston radio reaches more Democrats, more Republicans, and more Independent voters than all other local media.
When engaging in political advertising on Boston radio, there are several rules to be aware of:
- During the 45 days prior to a primary election or any non-general election, bona fide candidates for federal offices must be given access to commercial time on local radio stations.
- During the 60 days prior to a general election, bona fide candidates for federal offices must be given access to commercial time on local radio stations.
- During the two 'political windows' described above, radio stations are not obligated to sell time to candidates for statewide or local offices. Neither are they obligated to sell time to issue advertisers or political action committees (PAC).
- If a radio station does sell commercials to candidates for a statewide or local race, then that station is obligated to sell advertising to candidates in the same race. For instance, if a station sells time to one candidate running for Mayor of Framingham, then it must sell time to all candidates for that specific mayoral race. But, this does not obligate the station to sell commercials to candidates running to be Mayor of other cities.
- Radio stations are never obligated to sell time to an issue advertiser or PAC.
- During the 'political advertising windows', radio stations are obligated to provide bona fide candidates with the lowest unit rate (LUR) offered to any advertiser of the radio station. For instance, if a station's top advertiser is a car dealer who pays $25 for a commercial during morning drive time, then all bona fide candidates who buy time must be offered the same rate.
- All political and issue advertising must be paid for prior to commercials airing.
The above rules apply to broadcast television as well. These rules do not apply to political advertising in newspaper, cable TV, online, or social media.
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