Broadcasters let out a small sigh of relief Tuesday when the FCC made clear there is no requirement that TV stations have private investigators on staff. With TV stations’ political files now available online, three political activist organizations have been jointly filing complaints against TV stations alleging various errors and omissions in online public file paperwork relating to political ad buys by third-party advertisers. While it is reassuring that the FCC moved quickly to reject the complaints, its action leaves the political sponsorship identification waters somewhat murky.
With 2014 marking the first full year of a national election under relaxed rules for how much can be spent on a political campaign, stations are poised for record campaign spending that can translate into record levels of political file reporting.Count on these filings being heavily scrutinized. It’s more important than ever to ensure everyone involved is up to speed on what needs to happen and how to avoid any potential fines or the damage to a station’s reputation that can result from running afoul the FCC rules.
Today’s the day the FCC rule requiring online records of who paid for political ads takes effect for every TV station in the country.
When the FCC passed a rule earlier this year to require TV stations to post political ad buying information online, public interest groups welcomed the policy as a means to get an unprecedented look at how billions of campaign dollars flow around the country. But, in practice, attempts to create a full picture of political ad spending from the TV station files exposed deep flaws in the FCC’s effort as well as spotty compliance by the stations themselves.
Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker says that the new political ad requirements for FCC’s TV stations “will not only create a time-wasting headache for station groups, but we believe it could also result in downward pressure on ad rates in general.”
By adopting the FCC chairman’s plan to require broadcasters to post all political advertising information online instead of opting for an industry-proposed compromise, the commission is making it difficult to find the most sought-after and valuable information — who’s buying spots in what markets and how much are they spending in total. In addition, the new rule runs the risk of being slowed or derailed by challenges at the OMB and in the federal courts.
Chairman Julius Genachowski tells broadcasters assembled at NAB that the FCC’s plan to require stations to put their political ad files online is “common sense’ and dismisses their objections. For all that’s going on at NAB 2012, click here.
During a congressional hearing on the FCC budget, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell broached the topic of putting TV political advertising files online, and noted that while transparency was a laudable goal, there are a lot more issues involved, not the least of which is loading broadcasters with up to $140,000 in annual compliance costs.