FCC wants commentary on online political file


Political AdvertisingThe new rules requiring stations to post documents on political advertising in a national public file database housed by the FCC have had one trial under fire during the 2012 elections – and as promised, the FCC is now asking for opinions on the matter.

Under the trial, only big four affiliates in the top 50 markets were required to file. All stations are expected to join the program as of 7/1/14.

The FCC has stats on the first round of filings: “To date, over 361,000 documents have been uploaded into the online public file, including over 66,000 documents in political files. During the month leading up to the November 6, 2012 general election, stations uploaded nearly 27,000 documents to political files, peaking at 1582 documents uploaded on November 5. In addition, the public file has attracted over 2.5 million pageviews on 500,000 unique visits to the site. The busiest day was September 11, 2012, on which the site attracted 5,296 visits.”

The FCC would like comment on the impact that program had on the first 240 stations that dealt with the file, including obstacles met, obstacles overcome and suggestions on improvements the FCC can make regarding the process.

It also wants to know if the second wave of stations will be able to comply by next year’s deadline.
Comments are due 8/26/13 and reply comments are due 9/23/13. The proceeding is under MM Docket No. 00-168.

RBR-TVBR observation: We still think that the NAB’s common sense proposal is best for everybody. Rather than post every single document connected with a political sale, the NAB proposed to issue complete weekly summaries, including how many spots were run, who paid for them and how much they cost.

Instead, stations were forced to barrage the file with a paper storm that A). proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that every advertising flight is a snowflake; and B) were utterly impossible to make sense of in real time during the election.

The result was that watchdogs eager to post real time political spending reports were unable to do so – they had neither the time nor the staff to comb through the record.

Had the NAB suggestion been implemented, it would have been a simple matter to see which candidate or PAC put advertising on which station, with handy counts of the number of spots bought and the price of those spots. A complete report for the market could have been assembled in short order.

We at RBR-TVBR would have LOVED to have access to something like that.

The NAB proposal was intended to protect local broadcast stations from being forced to reveal sensitive competitive advertising rate information on line where it could be used by competitors – an inherently unfair requirement, by the way, since no other advertising medium faced a similar requirement.

But the proposal would have had just as much benefit for the watchdogs, and we think that changing the rules to something along the lines of the NAB proposal should be pursued vigorously.