How Hillary Clinton Could Save Millions if She Runs for President

A new petition to the FCC could save candidates a great deal of money when it comes to those all-important television ads.

This story first appeared in the April 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

In the aftermath of the Citizen United court case, the 2016 presidential election is shaping up as potentially the most expensive ever waged. So Hillary Clinton and the other potential candidates should keep their eyes on a new FCC petition that could dramatically reduce the cost of those all-important television ads. Under current law, candidates must be offered a station's lowest price for TV ads, but if another advertiser later offers to pay more for that time, the station can resell it to the higher bidder. (Candidates also can choose to pay a higher rate to "lock in" when they want their ads to run, as Mitt Romney did in 2012; President Obama, meanwhile, sought the lowest rates.)

Now, Georgia-based Canal Partners Media has filed a petition asking the FCC to declare it illegal for broadcasters to give any priority to commercial advertisers before an election. "What happens is when you get close to the election, everybody gets forced up to the higher rate," says Bobby Kahn, who filed the petition. Not surprisingly, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and the National Association of Broadcasters are opposed.

"There's a double-edge sword here," says NAB rep Dennis Wharton. "We don't want to offend our commercial clients who are there for us all year or anger political candidates who someday may sit on a committee overseeing legislation that affects our business." Broadcasters reaped $3.2 billion in political ads in 2012, according to Kantar Media, and a competitive 2016 presidential contest could best that number. While the period for FCC comments on the proposal ended March 20, it's unclear when the FCC will act.

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