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Belo's Shive Suggests Debate Over Public Files Will Continue

Dunia Shive, president and CEO of Belo Corp., urged the FCC to consider alternate proposals in its drive for stations to post their public files online. Stations' public files detail political buys on their air, and the Commission is adamant that stations have these online, as opposed to paper copies in file cabinets.

On Belo's earnings call April 26, Shive said she did not have a problem making some political advertiser information available in digital form.

"It's not really an issue with posting files online," she said in response to a question. "The issue is really with rate information with respect to a candidate who is looking for lowest unit rate."

Having other advertisers, and rival stations, privy to that information is troubling, suggested Shive.

The FCC has been agitating for this for years. Five years ago, then FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told B&C: "Much of the debate over whether broadcasters should be subjected to additional public-interest obligations is based on whether they are serving their communities now. I think most broadcasters are doing a good job, and making public their practices will add concrete facts to this debate and should benefit them."

More recently, current FCC chairman Julius Genachowski took up the fight at the NAB show in Las Vegas. "It's the 21st century," he said. "I call it common sense."

The FCC votes on the issue April 27.

Whatever the outcome, broadcasters will continue to fight giving up too many business details to the Web. "I don't think the conversation is over with respect to being able to continue talking about if we will ultimately have to include ad rates online," said Shive. "There have been various proposals presented to the FCC with respect to be able to show total advertising spend by particular candidates or particular PACs, which we think would be meaningful information, as opposed to the rate information."