Last updated: October 27, 2011 - 8:13am
Political TV commercials may be notable in the coming election not for the attack ads or the penchant to go negative but for a new level of transparency regulators are considering to shed light on who is buying the ads and how much they pay. The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote Oct 27 on a notice of proposed rulemaking that could require broadcasters to post information about political ads and other data on the Internet.
Broadcasters have long been required to keep such data in a “public file,” but the paperwork is usually available only to people who trek down to their local station and take a look. “There’s a plethora of information that broadcasters have to keep, but you have to go to the station to get it,” said Corie Wright, policy counsel for Free Press, one of the public interest groups pushing for online disclosure. “People shouldn’t have to go to a broadcaster’s basement to see it.” The FCC wants to bring the filings out of the dusty paper era and into the modern age by putting the documents on the FCC’s website, but television broadcasters are resisting the effort. National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton declined to comment on the issue, saying it was expected to come before the NAB’s board during its annual meeting this week. Broadcasters have made their opinions clear in the past, however, warning the commission to avoid a heavy hand and expressing a particular concern about making the information about political ad rates and buyers available with a few mouse clicks.