From the Legal Hotline (1-877-NEWS-LAW)
Q. I have a quick question if you don’t mind. A political gadfly in town is asking to run an ad with us again, and I’d like to not do business of any kind with him. Every word I say to him will end up in emails he sends out, or in court. Are there any concerns with ignoring, or rejecting a political ad? I did not run his political ad a few years ago based on the creative itself. This time I simply want to reject the ad because I don’t trust him at all. If he ran a small business I’d have no concerns, but I just want to make sure I’m not opening myself up to something by not allowing a political ad. I don’t really know, or care what his positions are, I just don’t want to interact with him in any form. Any concerns there? Thank you!
A. Newspapers have a First Amendment right to refuse letters to the editor and ads. Since papers are privately owned entities whose editors have editorial control, they are free to promote whatever political, social or economic view they wish. Further, you don’t have to provide any specific reason as to why you are exercising your discretion to not run a particular ad. [The only political ad restriction I am aware that might apply to you relates to rates for ads you do run. Specifically, the paper cannot charge one candidate for state or county public office for political advertising at a rate in excess of that charged another political candidate.]
Q. I am attaching a graphic ad submitted to our paper regarding a non-profit organization’s car raffle. I would like to know if this is legal to run. I know when I was in Texas we couldn’t run raffles as it was a form of gambling. If you could take a look, I would appreciate it.
A. Similar rules apply in Florida, which also consider raffles to be a game of chance or lottery and such activity is illegal (misdemeanor). However, an exception is that certain eligible non-profit organizations can conduct raffles. If conducted by an eligible entity, it would have to comply with the requirements of section 849.0935, which prohibits requiring a donation or purchase and mandates various disclosures relating the non-purchase/non-donation requirement and other relevant disclosures.
Here, it appears a nonprofit is involved with the raffle but so is their “partner,” a for-profit car dealership. Also, I don’t see disclosure statements and there appears to be an entry/purchase fee.
As you have suspected, I think the ad is problematic in its current form. Sometimes even these small raffles can create larger headaches. If the advertiser wants to vet the raffle to avoid issues, we have an expert in the area who can help in a cost-effective way.
Q. I had a question about Florida’s recording law that I was hoping you might be able to help me with. I’m a reporter based outside Florida, where I’ve been a member of our state press association. I am going to Florida in a couple of weeks to cover a conference that I had to pay/register for, but there was not an option to register as media. The conference will have speakers who are public figures — Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott. I know Florida is a two-party consent state when it comes to recording, so I wasn’t sure if that meant I could record portions of the conference or not, particularly since there will be public figures there. I would love to know if you have encountered this before or have any thoughts. Most of my experience has been in my state, which is a one-party consent state, so I have not dealt with this before. I appreciate any advice you can give and thank you for your time!
A. You are correct–Florida’s wiretapping law is a two-party consent law. Florida makes it a crime to intercept or record a “wire, oral, or electronic communication” in Florida, unless all parties to the communication consent. See s. 934.03. There are criminal penalties for violations.
However, Florida law makes an exception for in-person communications when the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation, such as when they are engaged in conversation in a public place where they might reasonably be overheard. The “open” conference you will be attending appears to be this type of “public place.” As a result, I would think you could record the Governor’s and Senator’s public speech given at a public venue without breaking the law. [However, I would think that a “public place” could morph into a private situation depending on the facts so I would advise even at the conference always getting the consent of all parties before recording any telephone or in-person conversation (“private” side meetings or conversations, etc.) that common sense tells you is private.]