Public interest groups are practically salivating that starting today, TV stations will have to begin posting online their political disclosure files containing information about who is spending what in the 2012 election. And they’re organizing to take full advantage of the more easily-available information.
Nexstar has received a waiver from the FCC that allows its NBC affiliate WHAG Hagerstown, Md., to avoid making political ad-spending information available online starting Thursday. The FCC agreed with Nexstar’s arguement that while the station is considered part of the Washington market, it should be considered a small-market station for purposes of the new FCC rule. The waiver exempts WHAG until 2014.
The Media Institute’s Patrick Maines: What is missing in yesterday’s denial of the NAB’s requested stay of the FCC’s new political file rules is what part of the “public,” other than broadcasters’ competitors and advertisers, would want to view the spot-by-spot ad rates. The simple fact is that the proposed aggregated data would actually be more helpful to journalists and interested citizens than the disaggregated data that the FCC rule now requires.
The National Association of Broadcasters filed a motion on Tuesday to stop an FCC rule requiring television stations to post information online about political ad spending.
The question isn’t why broadcasters don’t want to provide their political files online (they are willing to do this), but why defenders of the FCC rule insist on requiring the online display of stations’ ad rates? After all, one of the main goals of the campaign finance laws is to provide, in a timely way, information about candidate and issue expenditures. It’s not the goal of these laws to compel TV stations to divulge their competitive secrets about ad rates and the like.
In a change of direction, the House Appropriations Committee today voted unanimously to now allow the FCC’s rule on putting political ad data online to stand. Just two weeks ago, the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee of the House panel added an amendment to the FCC’s appropriations bill that blocked any funds for the implementation of the new rule.
A House appropriations subcommittee slipped language into a federal budget bill on Tuesday that would strip the FCC of its ability to disclose political ad spending by TV stations online.
The NAB is challenging the constitutionality of new FCC rules requiring local TV stations to put information about political advertising online, it said today. The new rules are “arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the commission’s statutory authority, inconsistent with the First Amendment, and otherwise not in accordance with the law,” the association contends.