FCC Seeks Input on Political Ad Disclosure Petition

The FCC's Media Bureau is seeking comment on a broadcaster petition to narrow the FCC's political ad disclosure requirements. It will give parties 45 days to file comments, replies and oppositions to the petition (docket number MB 19-363).. 

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. 

That came in a petition for reconsideration of the FCC's order resolving complaints against broadcast groups for failure to properly identify such ads.  

Related: FCC Clarifies Political Ad Disclosures 

According to the FCC, broadcasters want to narrow the interpretation of "national importance" by specifying that the term applies only to national political actors in position to take national action, which would exclude ads targeted at state and local races. They also want the FCC to eliminate the mandate that stations identify all political matters of national importance referenced in each ad and instead only require them to make a "reasonable, good faith" effort to disclose topics that are the main focus of the ad. They also want the freedom to use their own judgment about when using an acronym rather than spelling out the name is okay.  

Finally, they asked that the FCC seek comment on the petition, which it now has. 

The Campaign Legal Center, Sunlight Foundation, Common Cause and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society have signaled they would oppose the broadcaster petition. They were the groups that filed the disclosure complaints against the stations.

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.