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Political File Posting: The Time to Talk Is Now

The FCC wants to hear from broadcasters and others about its decision to require online posting of TV station political files. Stations have long been required to keep hard copies of contracts with political ad buyers, but the FCC last August started requesting that the information, and other public file info, be submitted online.

The commission is phasing in this requirement, initially applying it to the Big Four network affiliates in the top 50 markets, with the same obligation kicking in for the rest of the stations in July 2014—unless it hears anything in these comments to make it adjust the program.

The FCC reportedly has received 66,000-plus political file documents, and the general online public file has generated 2.5 million page views. The file has been used by campaign finance reform groups—notably the Sunlight Foundation— to track spending and spotlight disclosure issues.

Also sought are comments on a petition by top broadcast groups to reconsider the requirement, or amend it so stations could opt to file an aggregate total for political buys rather than spot prices. Stations have argued that giving the competition access to “competitively sensitive” pricing info puts them at a disadvantage. The deadline for comments is Sept. 23.