The FCC last week released two decisions addressing complaints from public interest groups against several TV stations alleging that the stations had not sufficiently disclosed in their online public files sufficient information about political issue advertising. These decisions will end up making life significantly more difficult for broadcasters running ads from non-candidate groups.
The Campaign Legal Center reiterates its charge that many stations are not complying with rules to make available online information about their political advertising, including who is paying for the spots. It adds the Scripps-owned Cincinnati ABC affiliate to its earlier list and urges the FCC to move before the election “to ensure transparency in our electoral system and to protect voters’ right to know by whom they are being persuaded.”
The FCC has taken the next steps toward implementing the expanded online public inspection file, which is set to go live on June 24. Specifically, the commission announced that on June 13 at 1 p.m. ET, it will hold an online demonstration on using the new online public file. In addition, the FCC publicized the internet address for the new online public file, which licensees must use to create the required link from their websites to the online public file.
The FCC appears poised to decide what to do with its proposals for an online public inspection file for radio stations, and for cable and satellite TV systems. The FCC’s list of “Items on Circulation” (orders that have been written and are being considered for approval by the FCC commissioners) indicates that the decision has been written and was provided to the commissioners for their consideration on Dec. 21. That could mean that a decision on this matter is imminent.
If you’re a TV licensee who doesn’t happen to be either (a) in any of the top 50 DMAs or (b) affiliated with one of the top four commercial networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), we’ve got some news for you: it looks like you’ll be having to upload all your new (but none of your old) political file data to your online public inspection file starting July 1.
Has it really been almost a year since the online public inspection file took effect for TV licensees? Sure enough, Aug. 2, 2012 was the Big Date last year; since the initial flurry of public file-related activities, things seemed to have settled into a routine. But now the commission — keeping a commitment it made back in April 2012 — has asked for comments on how the political file component of the online public file system has affected the 240 or so stations that have been subject to that particular requirement. The responses the FCC gets could determine whether any changes should be made to the requirement before it takes effect for other stations.
On Thursday afternoon, the FCC released a short Report and Order allowing a limited set of television stations to forego uploading a portion of their paper public inspection files to the FCC’s online system by the upcoming Monday, Feb. 4 deadline.
The FCC issued an order denying the NAB’s petition for stay of the FCC’s new online public inspection file rules. As a practical matter however, the FCC action is more of a procedural hurdle that had to be cleared by broadcasters on their way to court rather than a true substantive analysis of the merits of the court appeal.