The Issue: Media Reform
The Initiative: ProPublica, the New America Foundation and Free Press are asking people to help them make information about who’s paying for those negative campaign ads more accessible by uploading collected data to the Internet.
Background: Local television stations are required by law to keep paper files of who’s paying for political ads, and they have to make those files available to the public if requested. The FCC recently approved a new rule requiring TV stations to post their ad data online. But the rule has some limitations: it only applies to four networks — ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC — in the top 50 markets for the first 2 years. That means that millions of people in smaller markets, many in key swing states, will not benefit from the ruling in this election.
Some groups — such as the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica, the Media Policy Initiative at the New America Foundation and Free Press — have brainstormed a way to help broadcasters with the “onerous task” of making their records truly accessible to the public. But they need help to make it work. They’re asking that people go down to their local TV stations, politely ask for the records and make photocopies, and then upload the data. All three organizations have mounted campaigns to get all the records online.
If you're interested in learning how you can make campaign ad data more accessible, visit the following pages.
- Free Press: Transparency Team Guide | Pledge to Help
- ProPublica's campaign: "If TV Stations Won't Post Their Data on Political Ads, We Will"
- New America Foundation: "Public Interest Obligations: Can you help us collect data for our analysis?"
- Sunlight Foundation: "Political Ad Sleuth: Find A Station"
- Free Press Downloadable PDFs: Guide to Inspect the Broadcasters’ Public Files and Checklist
- ProPublica's PAC Track Ad Tracker: "What and Where are the Super PACs Spending?"
Updated: May 1, 2012