Buzzfeed cancelled a $1.3 million advertising deal with the RNC. Politico reported Monday:
In an email to staff on Monday, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti explained that in April, the RNC and BuzzFeed signed an agreement to “spend a significant amount on political advertisements slated to run during the Fall election cycle.” But since Trump became the nominee his campaign has proven themselves to be “directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States,” because of proposed bans on Muslim immigration and comments about descendants of immigrants, among other policies.
“We don’t need to and do not expect to agree with the positions or values of all our advertisers. And as you know, there is a wall between our business and editorial operations. This decision to cancel this ad buy will have no influence on our continuing coverage of the campaign,” Peretti said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.
“We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company,” Peretti wrote. “However, in some cases we must make business exceptions: we don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”
Obviously Buzzfeed management believes that Trump, and the RNC, has crossed a line separating simply advocating policies they find distasteful, and actual reprehensible positions with which no self-respecting outlet can agree.
First, can Buzzfeed do this legally? After all, it’s political advertising. In short, yes. The Communications Act only covers broadcast media, not (yet) online media. So Buzzfeed can safely do as they like. Television and radio stations (and networks) are still constrained–they must sell spot advertising to federal candidates during prime (or drive) time.
Second, how will this affect other news outlets? I’m not a lawyer here (or anywhere). But the FCC’s rules on political advertising would seem to indicate that most organizations cannot refuse RNC ads for federal office. Does this extend to, say, CNN’s online operations? I don’t know, but most likely if they are packaged together.
However, Buzzfeed’s action is a stake in the ground. It represents a news (it’s questionable in that capacity, but Buzzfeed has established itself somewhat) organization refusing to bend to the “nominee” simply because he’s the GOP’s choice. There could very well be more of these refusals in the future. Maybe they’ll convince Trump to soften his positions? Or maybe they’ll wake the RNC up from its fever dream?
Eh, probably not.