FCC Pushes for Web Disclosure of Political AdsBy: Mike Tuttle - April 9, 2012
Local television stations make big bank during election seasons running political ads. Used to be, you could count on ads from the opponents themselves. Nowadays, in a world where money equals protected free speech, many other concerns have an axe to grind on the airwaves. That leads to even more revenue for televisions stations as they run ads paid for by third parties and “SuperPACs”.
The public deserves to know who is speaking to them on any given political topic. If an ad is not endorsed and approved by a given political candidate – those are easy to spot now – then who aired it? Televisions stations are required to keep a list of organizations that spend for political advertisements. This listing is available for the public to peruse at the station office.
But who drops in to a television station and asks to see the listing anymore? Generally speaking, if we want to know something like that, we jump on the Internet machine. Only, television stations are not required to publish those lists online. Even though it may make sense to you and me that they should, they generally don’t. And they don’t want to. The FCC thinks they should. The television stations are fighting it tooth and nail. The last time it was brought up,lawsuits rained down on the FCC. But here it comes again.
The commissioner of the FCC are convening later this month, and they will take up this topic again at that time. They want the stations to upload those records to an FCC-maintained site. The stations say that would cost them too much to do.
I have mentioned in past articles that I used to work in radio for a bit. The old-timers there told me of all kinds of archaic regulations, hopps to jump through, etc. that existed in the time before Reagan deregulated that industry. Nowadays, it is wondrously easier for them to do their jobs. Of course, two companies now own almost all stations with any power and we have to listen to the same music everywhere we go, but some consider that progress.
My point is this, things have gotten way better for the broadcast industries over the years. Their employees will likely waste more on Facebook each hour than it will take to maintain the FCC-proposed listing of political ad buyers. It’s even going to be an FCC-maintained site, likely with an easy upload interface. 5 minutes a day to upload the already-required public ad buyer list is a pretty decent regulation to have in place to keep the public suitably informed in a 21st-century world.