A posse of conservative Republican senators has fired off a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski questioning the wisdom of requiring television broadcasters to copy and post complex advertising documents made between the station and candidates and political organizations. They ask Genachowski to leave things as they are.
The Chairman, however, has thus far been unrelenting. He has secheduled an April 27th vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to move forward with the proposal.
The letter was signed by Mike Lee (R-UT), John Boozman (R-AR), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Jim DeMint (R-SC).
“As we understand it,” they wrote, “your proposal would require broadcast television licensees to upload hundreds of thousands of documents containing commercially sensitive data, including advertising rate information, to a database centrally managed and monitored by the Commission.” They expressed their concerns.
“Your proposal appears to be excessive and unnecessary in light of the fact that all of this information is made available today at broadcast stations across the country. The transfer of these files to an online database does not appear to enhance localism or provide benefits to justify the regulatory and competitive costs likely to result from the effort. In fact, the FCC exempted political files from online posting requirements in 2007 because it found the burdens outweighed the benefits.”
“Given these issues,” they concluded, “along with the heavy compliance costs that would have to be borne by the broadcasters and the limited benefit that would be realized, we ask that you reconsider this proposal and maintain the rules as currently constituted.”
RBR-TVBR observation: We would argue this differently, and our main point is this: If we are going to require political ad disclosure, then all media should disclose. How in the world can anybody argue that television broadcasters and television broadcasters alone have to disclose this information while every other advertising venue is allowed to operate in total secrecy?
Let’s hear what’s being spent on cable, satellite, on radio, in newspapers, online, on direct mail and robocalling, and so on. All of it.
And the government will need to figure out a way to pay for all this.
Finally, the political aspect of this is a job for the FEC, not the FCC; and the truth in advertising part really belongs to the FTC, not the FCC. If it’s going to happen, it should be handled by the right agency and it should apply to everybody.