Legal Hotline: Political Ads – Size and Placement of Disclaimers

Legal Hotline: Political Ads – Size and Placement of Disclaimers

PNA Legal Hotline

Q:  Are there laws that govern the appearance of disclaimers required in political ads?

A:  Yes, state and federal laws govern the appearance of disclaimers in political ads.

State and local election ads are governed by the Pennsylvania Election Code.  25 P.S. §3258 requires disclaimers to appear “clearly and conspicuously.”  Pennsylvania law does not further define “clearly and conspicuously” but newspapers should make certain that disclaimers in state and local election ads are plainly visible and in a font size that is easy to read. Disclaimers should appear on the same page as the content of the ad for print and online election ads.

Federal election ads are governed by a number of federal laws and regulations including the Federal Election Campaign Act and Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations and advisory opinions.   Federal law also requires disclaimers to appear in a “clear and conspicuous manner.”  Disclaimers will not be considered “clear and conspicuous” if they are difficult to read or placed where they can be easily overlooked.  Federal law also requires disclaimers in printed matter to appear within a printed box set apart from the other contents of the ad.  The disclaimer must be “clearly readable” and contain a “reasonable degree of color contrast” between the background and the printed statement.   The FEC has determined that 12 point font in newspapers will be considered “clearly readable.”  Likewise, the FEC has also determined that a “reasonable degree of color contrast” is met when the disclaimer is black on a white background or when disclaimer text is the same color as the largest text in the ad.    To learn more about disclaimers required in federal election ads and to see examples click here http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/notices.shtml

As always, this is not intended nor should it be construed as legal advice.  Please consult your newspaper’s private attorney or call the Legal Hotline at (717) 703-3080 with questions.