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Sunlight Foundation Disses Broadcaster Political File Compromise

The Sunlight Foundation has written the FCC to ask that it not accept broadcasters' compromise proposal for posting political files online, arguing that it creates a two-tiered regime that does not satisfy congressional intent for political file reporting and undercuts broadcaster arguments that online posting of all political file info would be unduly burdensome.

Top broadcast group execs have met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Media Bureau staffers over the past several weeks to make a last-ditch pitch for their proposal to put aggregated political ad totals from candidates online, rather than individual ad buys, which would still be available in paper form in local station files.

In the letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the Sunlight Foundation, which promotes government transparency and online access to info, says that placing all the public file political info online is fundamental to satisfying the congressional directive per campaign reform law.

"The broadcasters are not entitled to cherry pick the quality or type of information to be made public," says the group, pointing to reports of broadcasters pitching the compromise. "Congress mandated what information must be made publicly available in the political file. By extension, the FCC must not limit, through its rules, public access to only those members of the public who have the ability and resources to enter a broadcast station and demand to see the paper documents. In this era of ubiquitous Internet access to everything, public means online."

The FCC is expected Friday (April 27) to vote to approve a proposal initially to apply the political and other public file online reporting requirements only to network affiliates in the top markets, about 200 stations, as a way to phase in the requirement, with the rest of the stations having to follow suit after two years.