By Paul Barbagallo
A group of 12 broadcasters has filed a petition with the Federal
Communications Commission to reconsider new rules requiring the online posting
of their “political files.”
The broadcasters, calling themselves the Television Station Group, are
seeking modifications to parts of the rules, which were adopted in April and
will force local stations to post to the internet all records detailing when
political commercials air, in which markets, and how much each campaign paid for
The group's main concern lies in revealing to media buyers on Madison Avenue
exactly how much TV stations charge for political advertising. Under law,
broadcasters must charge a lowest-unit rate for political ads, and if those
rates are widely accessible on an FCC-managed website, private-sector
advertisers may begin to clamor for that same low rate.
“It is axiomatic that disclosure of price information is anti-competitive and
disrupts markets--in this case, not only the local political advertising
marketplace but also the local commercial advertising marketplace more
generally, because stations' political ad rates, by law, must be based on
commercial advertising rates (and based on their most favorable rates during the
political 'windows’),” the group wrote in the petition, filed late June
The Television Station Group--which includes Barrington Broadcasting Co.,
Belo Corp., Cox Media Group, Dispatch Broadcast Group, the E.W. Scripps Company,
Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television, LIN Television Corporation, Meredith
Broadcasting Group, Post-Newsweek Stations, Raycom Media, and Schurz
Communications--made it clear that it does not “generally object” to the scope
of the FCC's disclosure requirements or its goal to make stations' political
file available to public on an agency-run website.
These same companies said the same earlier this year, when a similar
coalition of broadcasters, also led by Barrington, made a counterproposal to the
FCC that would have required TV stations, under the new rules, to make available
online only the names of the ad buyers and aggregate amounts paid for an ad
The FCC rejected the proposals, reasoning that such ad rate information has
been available on paper for years.
TV stations already are required by law to maintain a political file, but
only on paper. Currently, to access the files, citizens must go to each local TV
station to sift through them by hand.
The FCC's rules are not expected to take effect until the summer. They are
already subject to a lawsuit by the National Association of Broadcasters and
have been targeted by Republicans through the appropriations process.
For the petition, visit http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/368296/petition-for-reconsideration.pdf.