Media Bureau Sets Aside Political File Complaint Decisions

The FCC under chairman Ajit Pai has gotten busy undoing some late-stage actions under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, or what Pai had signaled were last-minute efforts to cut process corners to pursue "partisan, political agendas" before the change of administrations.

On Friday (Feb. 3), the FCC's Media Bureau set aside its actions on political file complaints involving a host of TV stations, saying they were more appropriately handled at the bureau level.

"The complaints will be returned to pending status and considered by the Commission," said acting bureau chief Michelle Carey.

On Jan. 6, the FCC, the bureau on its own authority — rather than by a commission vote — admonished Scripps’ WCPO-TV Cincinnati for "failing to include in WCPO-TV’s political file certain information about two requests to purchase broadcast time for non-candidate issue advertisements."

Separately, in resolving complaints against a number of stations, the FCC took no enforcement action, but provided clarification going forward about how political ads need to be disclosed, clarification that has been mooted for the moment.

Groups looking for better disclosures of the funders of ads in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations and unions to fund TV and radio ads in the run-up to elections, had pushed for tighter rules and complained that stations were violating the FCC disclosure rules already on the books

Earlier in the week, Carey also said the bureau had scrapped a December decision on noncommercial station ownership reporting, which was another action Pai had signaled would get a fresh look under new FCC management.

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.