FCC takes on super PACs

The commission voted to require stations to post political ad data online -- but it won't be searchable

Topics: 2012 Elections, Advertising, Media Criticism,

FCC takes on super PACs (Credit: Screenshot from American Crossroads anti-Obama ad)
This originally appeared on ProPublica.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 2 to 1 this morning to require broadcasters to post political ad data on the Web, making it easier for the public to see how as much as $3.2 billion will be spent on TV advertising this election.

The files — which, among other information, detail the times ads aired, how much they cost, and whether stations rejected ad buy requests from campaigns — are currently available only on paper at stations.

The FCC rejected a push by the industry to water down the measure. But the rule as passed also has serious limits. For example, the data will not be searchable or uploaded in a common format.

The rule will first apply to affiliates of the four major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) in the top 50 TV markets. All other stations will have until July 2014 to come into compliance.

“[L]arge areas of some swing states, like Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan, could see an influx of advertising in markets outside of the top 50,” the Sunlight Foundation noted in an analysis today. It was also not immediately clear exactly when the rule will go into effect for the top 50 markets.

Then there’s the crucial question of the format in which the files will be available. FCC spokeswoman Janice Wise told ProPublica that the commission is not creating a searchable database of the political ad files.

“We’ll accept whatever [file] format they provide,” she said in an email.

That will make it much more difficult to analyze the information.

Wise said there are no specific plans to make the database searchable.

By opting to allow stations to submit political data in any format, the commission departed from a recommendation made last year by in an FCC working group report.  The report called for the political file to be put online and that “as much data as possible [be] in a standardized, machine-readable format” that “could also enhance the usefulness and accessibility of the data.”

You Might Also Like

Also not clear is how the broadcast industry, which vigorously lobbied against the rule, will react.

“[W]e will be seeking guidance from our Board of Directors regarding our options,” the National Association of Broadcasters said in a statement decrying the vote.

In March, the industry group submitted a filing with the commission raising “serious questions about the FCC’s authority” to require stations to put political ad data online.

“That was written as a legal memorandum, which is code for, ‘We’ve lawyered up and we’re ready to sue over this,’” says Andrew Schwartzman, a longtime FCC watcher at the Media Access Project.

The broadcasters’ group declined to comment beyond its statement.

On a Thursday earnings call for Belo Corp., one of the companies that has been fighting the disclosure measure, CEO Dunia Shive suggested that broadcasters would continue to fight the new disclosure rule.

“I don’t think the conversation is over with respect to being able to continue talking about if we will ultimately have to include ad rates online,” she said, Broadcasting & Cable reported.

Belo spokesman R. Paul Fry told ProPublica that the company merely “want[s] to continue the dialogue on this subject.”

The FCC also said today it would review the new rule after a year to see if any changes need to be made before all stations will be required to come into compliance in July 2014.

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>