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The concept of free airtime generally refers to a plan or process of making commercial airtime available to political candidates at no charge. Application ideas have varied from public forums and debates to political commercials, with proponents citing the public interest standard for broadcasters as the impetus for the free airtime.

Free airtime is usually linked to campaign finance reform. Advocates argue that commercial broadcast time is one of the largest expenditures in an election campaign; free airtime would decrease campaign expenditures by requiring local broadcasters—through either Federal Communications Commission rulings or congressional law—to provide free advertising time for federal candidates for office. The free time is usually proposed in conjunction with having candidates meet spending limits or other criteria. Proponents maintain that because television ...

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