Campaign Reformers Push Back on NAB Political Ad Ask

Campaign reform groups are telling the FCC to reject broadcasters' petition to 'clarify' the FCC's disclosure requirements for third-party political ads and follow NAB's "rationally tailored approach."  

Related: Broadcasters Fight Political Ad Disclosure Changes

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 response, the Campaign Legal Center, Sunlight Foundation, Common Cause, the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society and Issue One say the FCC should not " exclude from disclosure advertisements that address a political matter of national public importance if they also refer to a local or state election." 

It was complaints from those groups about TV station disclosures, or the lack of them, that prompted the FCC guidance broadcasters are trying to clarify. 

Related: FCC Admonishes More Stations for Political Ad Non-Disclosures

Those groups say that the public's need to know who paid for an ad that addresses an issue of national importance doesn't decrease because the ad mentions a local candidate. 

They said that would create a large loophole for PACs and dark money groups to hide their spending on issue ads simply by including the name of a state or local race or candidate.  

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.