Beginning June 24, cable, satellite and radio providers will join television broadcasters in posting their public files on the Federal Communications Commission’s online database. The database was initially established in 2012 for television broadcasters.
By putting these files online, the public and the media will be able to more easily access information about the political advertisements running on cable, radio and satellite as required by long-standing statute. Included in the political file is information on the rates charged for political advertisements, the times when the ads ran and the sponsors of the ads.
The Commission had voted on January 28 to expand the online requirements beyond broadcast television. The June 24 date was established after successful review by the Office of Management and Budget, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act.
The Commission’s action followed continuing efforts by the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation, pushing the Commission to extend the online file requirements. The Institute for Public Representation of Georgetown Law Center represented the group in the FCC filings.
“Extending the disclosure requirements to cable, satellite and radio was the next logical step to ensure that the long-required public inspection files are easily accessible,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center. “Our joint efforts to drag the FCC into the 21st Century began more than five years ago. Having these public files stuffed in backroom file cabinets at the headquarters of media providers in the age of the Internet makes no sense.”
McGehee continued: “We commend the Commission for getting these rules in place as the 2016 elections are heating up. In the last several election cycles, the number of political ads running on cable and satellite systems has grown as candidates, super PACs and dark-money groups are targeting specific groups of viewers and listeners. The adoption of the new rules will help ensure that U.S. media providers are abiding by long-standing statutes requiring disclosure of key information about ads bought to influence American elections.This extension was simply a matter of fairness to all media, and an appropriate use of existing technology. ”
“While extending the online requirements to cable, satellite and radio is a victory for the public, the Commission has yet to require these political files be in a standardized, machine-readable format. Media providers are still uploading PDFs. Without a standardized format, it remains difficult for both the FCC and the public to easily review the information that is being uploaded. We continue to urge the FCC to expeditiously move away from PDFs and replace them with a database that is searchable, sortable, and downloadable,” said McGehee.