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Broadcasters Ask to Put Off Appeal Of ‘Political File' Rules Until After Election

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

By Paul Barbagallo  

 

The National Association of Broadcasters on Sept. 17 filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to defer until after the election its appeal of the Federal Communications Commission's rules requiring TV stations to disclose information online about political ad purchases, saying the additional time will allow the group to “gain experience with the new regulatory requirements at issue and explore possible alternative means of resolving the issues.” (National Association of Broadcasters v. Federal Communications Commission, D.C. Cir., No. 12-1225, 09/17/2012)

The association asked the court to postpone the due date for NAB's opening brief, now due Oct. 4, to Feb. 15, 2013.

“Following the election on November 6, 2012, the volume of political advertisements purchased by candidates and other political advertisers will drop dramatically, allowing NAB an opportunity to assess the effects of the [FCC's] order,” the association wrote. “Based on experience gained during the 2012 election cycle, the NAB may conclude that it is not necessary to proceed with this case.”

As of Aug. 2, the top four network-affiliated stations (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) in the top 50 U.S. markets must post their “political files” to an FCC-hosted web site, while the rest of the roughly 1,800 stations in the country have until July 1, 2014 to do so.

In appealing the rule, the broadcasters say the Federal Election Commission, not the FCC, should be the “central online repository” for such data, which is already available to the public in hard copy at each TV station's local office, but is time-consuming and cumbersome to access.

Under Section 315 of the Communications Act, as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, broadcasters' “political files”--as they are known in the statute--must reflect all requests “made by or on behalf of a legally qualified candidate for public office” or that “communicates messages relating to any political matter of national importance, including a legally qualified candidate, any election to federal office, or a national legislative issue of public importance.”

The political file also reveals how the TV station responded to such requests--if a request was granted and, if so, the schedule of the times purchased, the times that the spots actually aired, the rates charged, the “classes” of time purchased, and whether a station granted any free time to a candidate.

In a minor victory for the FCC, the D.C. Circuit denied an emergency motion July 27 by the NAB for a stay of the rule, setting the stage for a legal battle.


For the NAB's motion, visit http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=sbay-8y8tzz.

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