Broadcasters Sue to Block Transparency

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This article was originally published on ProPublica

The National Association of Broadcasters is asking a federal appeals court to block a rule passed by the Federal Communications Commission last month requiring TV stations to post political ad data on the Internet.

In a petition for review filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., the broadcast industry group argues that the rule is “arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the Commission’s statutory authority inconsistent with the First Amendment, and otherwise not in accordance with law.”

The association represents, among others, the parent companies of NBC, CBS, Fox and the broadcasting arm of the Washington Post.

TV stations have long been required to keep detailed information about who buys political ads, how much they paid, and when spots run. But the information is currently kept only on paper at stations. The FCC’s new rule, which has not yet gone into effect, would require stations to post the information to a new government website.

In its two-page filing Monday, the broadcast association “requests that this Court hold unlawful, vacate, and set aside the FCC Order and grant such other relief as may be necessary and proper under the circumstances.”

As we detailed earlier this year, major media companies had lobbied hard against the rule. They made two primary arguments: first, that posting the information online would be burdensome; and, second, that making ad rate information more accessible would hurt stations’ ability to negotiation with non-political advertisers. By law, stations must extend the lowest ad rates to candidates.

If the broadcasters’ legal appeal fails, the rule could go into effect as early as July.

Reacting to the broadcasters’ filing, an FCC spokesperson said, “The public file rules are a common-sense update by the FCC to move from paper to online access to public information in the digital age. The rules are consistent with Congress’s directive to ensure public availability while providing cost-savings for broadcasters.”

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Updated: June 1, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    How are we to adhere to the wise dictum of “Follow the
    money,” when the ideas posited by the big moneyed media are presented
    as rootless air flowers? 

    Political speech in moneyed speech forums needs attribution better to appraise
    its coherence; we mere human speakers need to know whose money is talking in
    order to better evaluate what it is saying.

  • Jan Tjernlund

    This is just a move by some big media corporations to keep their choices opaque as in non-transparency.

  • Michael D. Rich

    Good ruling!

  • Cesi1506

    Public File obligations are nothing new and I can’t help but wonder about what the true objections are all about.  While it is no secret that the Media outlets all have their PAC money at play in the upcoming election I think this is more about making access more difficult and intimidating for private citizen’s who have a right to know what is in the Public File.  Creating a web page of the political ad transactions of what is already on paper really is not a big burden.