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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 each ad.
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 11.
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 spot.
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.
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