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ACA Connects Backs Broadcaster Political Ad Petition

ACA Connects, which represents small and midsized cable operators, told the FCC this week it supports a National Association of Broadcasters petition that asks the FCC to "clarify" that state and local political ads not trigger enhanced disclosure just because they may mention an issue of national importance. 

The National Association of Broadcasters joined with Hearst Television, Graham Media Group, Nexstar, Fox, Tegna and Scripps to ask the FCC to narrow its definition of non-candidate ads on “any political matter of national importance" (i.e. "issue" ads) and the disclosure obligations on broadcasters to identify the issues in those ads. 

In reply comments in support of NAB, they told the FCC that in resolving political file complaints, the FCC's interpretation of statute would expand political file obligations for not only TV stations but cable operators also subject to political file requirements. 

Broadcasters and cable operators are required to report political ad buys to the FCC.  

"We share petitioners’ and other parties’ concerns with these interpretations, as well as with the process by which the Commission arrived at them," said ACA. "In particular, by announcing these interpretations in the context of narrow complaint proceedings, the Commission was not able to consider or address the impact of its rulings on cable operators, including the heightened burdens they create for smaller cable operators. ACA Connects thus urges the Commission to reconsider the Political File Orders, and to seek comment on reconsideration on how best to implement the statutory language at issue." 

ACA said that whether or not the FCC grants the broadcaster petition, it should make clear that it will "defer to the good-faith compliance efforts by cable operators and others subject to [the] requirements," particularly in the case of the smaller operators it represents. ACA said that is because the FCC has created "novel and highly context-sensitive disclosure obligations."