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Senate Political Ad Disclosure Bill Introduced

As expected, Senate Democrats have produced a bill requiring the FCC to update its sponsorship identification rules to require more detailed information on the "true" sponsors of political broadcasts.

Even as a similar house bill was being introduced last week, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), one of the cosponsors, signaled the bill was coming.

Ever since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing corporate and union spending on federal electioneering ads, Democrats and finance reformers have been pushing the FCC to require IDs on radio and TV commercials beyond identifying the super PAC or nonprofit making the ad buy.

According to a copy of a draft of the bill, the Sunshine in Sponsorship Identification Act would give the FCC 30 days after adoption to launch a rulemaking to make that and other changes, and nine months for that to gestate into a rule change order.

"Given the dramatic changes in technology in the many years since the Federal Communications Commission put forth formal guidance on these issues, the Commission should review its sponsorship identification policies to make sure that American citizens are fully apprised of the identity of entities seeking to influence them," the bill text says.

The FCC can do more in an order, but the legislation says, at a minimum, it must:

(1) "update and modernize its sponsorship identification rules and guidance to reflect current technologies and commercial and political advertising practices.

(2) "ensure that political broadcasts include disclosures containing more detailed information about the identity of the true sponsors of such broadcasts;

(3) "consider how best to require the disclosure of sponsorship identification information, including by requiring that more detailed sponsorship identification information be placed online or in another form more readily accessible to the public."

Like the House bill, the Senate bill is unlikely to make it through a House and Senate controlled by Republicans who have long opposed legislative efforts targeting Citizens United.

Also sponsoring the bill were Sens. Warren, Blumenthal, Markey, Wyden, McCaskill, and Peters.

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.