Television groups offer FCC political file alternative


A posse of 11 television groups has weighed in on the FCC’s proposal to put information concerning political advertising in the proposed online public file that is currently under consideration. The proposal would consolidate the cluttered paper trail generated in the course of conducting business and still provide a clear picture of who is spending how much on behalf of which candidate.

The broadcasters note that the process of getting a political ad on the air is a lot more complicated than people not involved in that process may realize, and offer an alternative that they believe will make the process easier on their behalf and at the same time will be easier for the public to understand and use.

Here is the proposal, the simplicity of which is underscored by the fact that this is the proposal in its entirety:

1. The station would place online, either at a station website or the FCC’s website (at the station’s election), the following political file information:

* the name of the buyer, the name of the candidate on whose behalf the political spots (or program material) were purchased and the entity, including officers, that paid for the spots (or program material);

* the aggregate amount of money paid for the spots (or program material) by the buyer since the last online posting.

2. Generally, the online political file would be updated once a week. Immediately prior to an election, it would also be updated the day before the election. Outside the lowest unit charge period, the online political file would be updated once a month.

3. Existing FCC requirements for stations’ local political files for purchase of political spots and political program material would remain the same.

The companies signing on to the filing include:
Barrington Broadcasting Co., Inc.
Belo Corp
Cox Media Group
Dispatch Broadcast Group
The E.W. Scripps Company
Gannett Broadcasting
Hearst Television Inc.
Meredith Broadcasting Group
Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc.
Raycom Media, Inc.
Schurz Communications, Inc.

RBR-TVBR observation: As a general rule, businesses would rather keep their books closed. The fact that broadcasters are proactively offering cooperation rather than entrenched resistance, as long as the FCC reciprocates by keeping the paperwork to a reasonable minimum, seems to us to be a rare and encouraging example of give and take between the regulated and the regulators. It will be interesting indeed to see if this proposal gains any traction at the Commission.