Public broadcasters ponder political ads

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Public radio and television stations are weighing the opportunities and risks of accepting political advertising following a federal court ruling that found an existing ban on such ads violates the First Amendment, and that running them would not undermine public broadcasting’s mission.

The decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California comes as candidates and political action groups are stockpiling millions of dollars for an election year advertising blitz expected to break records. While the ruling applies only to California and eight other western states, it could set a precedent, forcing public broadcasters nationwide to grapple with whether political ads would alienate listeners and viewers they depend on for donations….

Jeanne Hopkins, spokeswoman for rival WGBH-FM, said that the station is still studying the ruling – which could conceivably end up before the US Supreme Court on appeal – but that it doesn’t anticipate accepting political ads.

“The trusted relationship we have with our audiences and the environment we create for our programs is vitally important,’’ Hopkins said.

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