11 Stations Hit With Political Ad Complaints

The Campaign Legal Center and the Sunlight Foundation tell the FCC that 11 stations have violated disclosure rules, including failure to identify candidates referred to in the ads, the issue of national importance to which the ad refers and the CEO or board of the advertiser.

Two open government advocacy groups have filed formal complaints at the FCC against 11 TV stations, alleging that they have failed to comply fully with rules requiring them to disclose online certain information about their political advertising.

The targeted stations belong to the Big Four networks as well as Hearst, Scripps, Post-Newsweek, Media General and Gannett.

They are WDIV Detroit (Post-Newsweek), KNXV Phoenix (Scripps), WTVJ Miami (NBC), WMUR Boston (Hearst), WFLA Tampa (Media General), WTVT Tampa (Fox), WWJ Detroit (CBS), KMGH Denver (Scripps), WCNC Charlotte, N.C. (Gannett), KMSP Minneapolis (Fox) and WTVD Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (ABC).

The groups — the Campaign Legal Center and the Sunlight Foundation — accused most of the stations of multiple infractions, including failure to identify candidates referred to in the ads, the issue of national importance to which the ad refers and the CEO or board of the advertiser.

“These complaints may lift the curtain on why the National Association of Broadcasters has fought so hard against putting the political files online,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center in a prepared statement. 

“In too many cases, the stations and their advertisers failed to comply with the simplest and most basic disclosure requirements. As a result, the public does not have the information it needs to understand who is speaking on the public airwaves and attempting to influence their views on political issues. The information required to be included in the political file allows viewers to assess for themselves the information they are presented with on the air.”

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Congress expanded the long-standing political disclosure requirements in 2002 and two years ago the FCC ordered Big Four affiliates in the top 50 markets to post the information online. The online obligation expands to all stations on July 1.

“There is just widespread non-compliance,” said Andrew Schwartzman of the Georgetown University Law Center, which is representing the complaining groups. “People had better shape up and start doing it right.”


Comments (3)

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Kristine Melser says:

May 1, 2014 at 10:10 am

“As a result, the public does not have the information it needs to understand who is speaking on the public airwaves and attempting to influence their views on political issues. The information required to be included in the political file allows viewers to assess for themselves the information they are presented with on the air.” ~

Is this website and information really used for the public benefit ? Does the public know about it ? Or is it just Big Government getting the stations to do competitive reports for them using the public as reasoning ?

Albert Pica says:

May 1, 2014 at 11:22 am

Here’s the real problem. The FEC requires only a treasurers name for these groups to form. That is MUCH less than what the FCC is now demanding. So, while Meredith McGehee wants to claim stations are failing to comply with the “simplest and most basic disclosure requirements” maybe she should be asking the FEC to change its “simple and basic” requirements so that these groups are forced to disclose these names up front. That would mean stations aren’t scrambling for this information that the agencies don’t have.


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