FCC Seeks Info On Political File Complaint

The FCC has sent letters to 11 stations cited by Sunlight Foundation for alleged violations of the FCC's political file rules, giving them two weeks to respond according to the groups that filed the complaint.

“We take political file complaints seriously and anticipate resolving these quickly," said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. "Accuracy is just as important as accessibility in providing this kind of information to the American public. I hope this serves as a reminder to all stations of their obligation to maintain political files in accordance with statutory provisions and our rules.”

Sunlight Foundation and Campaign Legal Center filed complaints May 1 against the stations for allegedly failing to post the requisite info about political ad sponsors in their online political files.

The complaints say the stations failed to identify the candidate the ad referred to, the issue of national importance and the CEO or board of directors of the sponsor.

Broadcasters have already suggested they share the FCC's goal of complying with the rules.

"NAB takes seriously the political file rules, and will continue working with broadcasters to ensure compliance," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton when the complaints were filed. "We also intend to educate political advertising agencies to enlist support for more accurate information on the disclosure requirements for political ads. Our goal is 100 percent compliance with both the statutory requirements and the FCC rules."

Stations have always been required to make the files accessible to the public at the stations, but the FCC decided back in 2012 to require online posting to make it easier to inspect that public file.

The complaints were filed against WDIV (NBC) Detroit; KNXV (ABC) Phoenix; WTVJ (NBC) Miami; WMUR (ABC) Manchester/Boston; WFLA (NBC) Tampa; WTVT (FOX) Tampa; WWJ (CBS) Detroit; KMGH (ABC) Denver; WCNC (NBC) Charlotte; KMSP (FOX) Minneapolis; and WTVD (ABC).

Sunlight asserted May 13 that was only "the tip of the iceberg."

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.