Skip to main content

NAB: FCC Lacks Authority to Require Online Posting Of Political Files

Broadcasters are telling the FCC that it is not only their
wish, but the will of Congress, that TV station political files not have to be
put online. Those are the files detailing political ad buys, which stations
must keep due to restrictions on what they can charge for political spots.

That is according to a supplemental filing from the National Association of
Broadcasters in the FCC's proposal to create and administer an online,
searchable database of stations' heretofore paper public files stored at individual

In that filing, NAB pointed out that since
the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) expressly contemplated
putting some election-related records on file, but did not expressly extend
that to broadcasters' political files, "The clear implication is that
Congress did not intend for broadcasters to be subject to [such] an
obligation." Therefore, says NAB, the
FCC does not have the authority to impose that requirement if it wanted to, at
least not without more direction from Congress.

It points out that BCRA's broadcaster reporting requirement says only that they
be made "available for public inspection," not that they be put
online, as is said about other info, including various FEC reports and

NAB says it is clear from BCRA that the FEC
is meant to be the "central repository" of campaign info and already
has detailed campaign broadcast ad spending data.

"With this perspective, it is not surprising that Congress would choose
not to require broadcasters to post the information online," said NAB.
"First, there is no need for duplicative disclosure. Second, stations are
not the entities placing ads. Nor are they in a position to ensure that the
information given to them by an advertiser is correct."

NAB also said that duplicative filing would
not pass muster with the Paperwork Reduction Act, an Office of Management &
Budget gauntlet any federal regs that increase reporting requirements must run.

During the debate in the House Energy & Commerce Committee over the Eshoo
amendment, the issue of station liability for the accuracy of that ad
information was raised as well, with Eshoo saying it was the groups buying the
ads -- not broadcasters -- that would be responsible.