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Local Broadcasters Sound Off On Public Files

It seems there’s one thing that station execs agree on when it comes to the FCC and its demand that stations’ public files be put online.

OK, there’s two.

1, it’s a big pain in the butt.

And 2, they’re actually fine with the concept of making the files digital, but it’s more a matter of how much information they want online that’s the sticking point. “I really don’t have a problem with everything going online,” says Ray Heacox, president and general manager at KING-KONG Seattle. “But what degree of detail–it’s a little more than I think is appropriate.”

To be sure, stations currently make the political ad rate info available to the public, which of course includes their rival stations. The rivals regularly conduct “public file roundups”–gathering intel from these dusty files at the station across the street.

Having more information about the competition at their fingertips has to be at least a little inviting to a GM in the ultra-competitive station world, but some are thinking bigger picture on the issue. “If it’s there, we’ll use it,” says Patrick McCreery, vice president and general manager of KPTV-KPDX in Portland, Oregon. “But we’re approaching it as an industry issue. We do a decent enough job competing with what’s [currently] available. I think it hurts our industry that cable doesn’t have to report, is not held to the same rules we are.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was very clear to broadcasters that he wants this done when he addressed them at NAB in Vegas a few weeks ago. On April 27 the FCC voted to require stations to put the public info online.

Several at the station level feel it’s a response from the White House, to the Administration’s distaste for the Citizens United ruling, and its effect on Super PAC spending during election season.

“I think they’ve overstepped their bounds,” says one local broadcast exec.