The FCC occasionally receives complaints from consumers about broadcast advertising. These complaints concern a wide variety of issues, including:

  • The nature of the products being advertised
  • The timing of certain ads
  • Commercials believed to be indecent or in poor taste
  • False and misleading advertisements

Are there laws limiting material that stations can broadcast?

Stations are prohibited from broadcasting material that promotes certain lotteries; advertises cigarettes, little cigars or smokeless tobacco products; or perpetuates a fraud. Some advertisements also may violate regulations that fall under the jurisdiction of other federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Trade Commission.

Additionally, federal laws prohibit or limit obscene, indecent or profane language. Obscene broadcasts are prohibited at all times, while indecent or profane broadcasts are prohibited during certain hours. For more information, see our guide on Obscene, Indecent and Profane Broadcasts.

What if I think a specific ad is false or misleading?

Broadcasters are responsible for selecting the broadcast material that airs on their stations, including advertisements. The FCC expects broadcasters to be responsible to the community they serve and act with reasonable care to ensure that advertisements aired on their stations are not false or misleading.

The FTC has primary responsibility for determining whether specific advertising is false or misleading, and for taking action against the sponsors of such material. You can report consumer fraud to the FTC.

Printable Version

Complaints About Broadcast Advertising (pdf)


Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Tuesday, January 12, 2021