NAB to FCC: Ad Clarification Opponents Have It All Wrong

The National Association of Broadcasters said its opponents have given the FCC no reason to deny NAB's request that it clarify its disclosure requirements for third-party political ads and follow NAB's "rationally tailored approach." 

That came in a reply to comments on its request for that clarification. 

NAB 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 NAB's petition for reconsideration of the FCC's order resolving complaints against broadcast groups for failure to properly identify political ads.   

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.   

Commenters opposed to NAB's request said the association's interpretation of “political matter of national importance" is contrary to statutory intent and language, but NAB said campaign finance reform disclosures are about soft money and issue ads influencing federal elections and should not apply to "thousands of state and local elections merely because they may mention issues discussed at the national, as well as state or local, level."

Besides, NAB pointed out, the FCC's overbroad interpretation of the disclosure requirement would be "virtually impossible to administer." 

"Even the opposition recognizes it would be 'impracticable' for stations to draw 'fine distinctions between federal and state issues,' which is precisely what the Political File Order requires," said NAB. 

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.