TV’s Political ‘Price’ of Disclosure

WASHINGTON — It looks like both small- and largemarket broadcasters will have to start making their political ad files — including the price of campaign-related spots — available for easy inspection by their cable competitors for those ad dollars.

The top four stations in the top 50 markets have been required to post those files to the Federal Communications Commission’s searchable online database since August 2012, but other stations were given until this July 1 to start posting them, unless the FCC found a reason to change that. Apparently, the FCC has not found such a reason, despite broadcasters’ protestations that the filings gave their competitors sensitive pricing information.

Contracts for political ads have been part of stations’ on-site public files, but those were more difficult to access than an online database.

The National Association of Broadcasters had suggested that if the FCC was going to continue to require the online political file posting, it should ask the same of cable and satellite operators, particularly as it expands the requirement to all stations. It appears that won’t be the case.

In a reminder from the Media Bureau issued earlier this month, every commercial-TV station beyond those already subject to the rules were advised that they would have to start the online posting on July 1, as initially planned.

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.