FCC: All Stations Must Post Political Files Starting In July

It looks like all TV stations will have to start posting their political files—records of their contracts for political ads, including prices—beginning July 1, 2014.

The top four stations in the top 50 markets have been required to post those files to the FCC's searchable online database since August 2012, but other stations were given until July 1, 2014, to start posting them, unless the FCC found reason to change that. Apparently, the FCC has not found reason, despite broadcaster protestations that the filings gave their competitors sensitive pricing information.

The contracts have been part of station public files, but those were a lot harder to access than an online database. The National Association of Broadcasters had suggested that if the FCC was going to continue to require the online political file posting, it should ask the same of cable and satellite operators, particularly as it expands the requirement to all stations. "We note the particular disparity of requiring even the smallest television stations to disclose their most sensitive pricing data via the Internet, while pay TV operators with millions of subscribers and the largest online entities are not so required," NAB said in comments last August.

In a reminder from the Media Bureau issued late Friday, TV stations outside the top four and the top 50 markets were advised that they would have to start the online posting July 1 as initially planned.

Those stations have already had to post their other public files—children's programming lists, for example—so the bureau suggested it should not be tough from a tech standpoint.

“By moving forward with the online filing requirement for the political file, the FCC’s policy will help ensure that viewers have the information they need to assess for themselves the messages they are viewing," said the Campaign Legal Center, which pushed for the online disclosures. "We commend FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and the Commission for letting a little more sunshine breakthrough in the multi-billion dollar business of political advertising, despite pushback from some FCC licensees.”

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.