TV political advertising data, available to the public at TV stations and at the Federal Communications Commission, will now be available online — much to the chagrin of TV stations.
In an effort to secure easier public access and to “increase transparency,” the FCC has instituted the new rules. It would apply to the top four network affiliates — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — in the top 50 markets. Other stations will have to comply in two years.
But broadcasters say this puts them at a disadvantage — revealing specific ad rates and details to its competitors, including local cable ad selling groups.
Much of this political advertising information had been available in paper form at TV stations since 2002; other so-called “public files” have been available since 1965.
Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, stated: “By forcing broadcasters to be the only medium to disclose on the Internet our political advertising rates, the FCC jeopardizes the competitive standing of stations that provide local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather information free of charge to tens of millions of Americans daily.”
Broadcasters had been vying for an alternative plan — in the wake of these coming rule changes. It offered more general political advertising details, such as which candidates or groups are buying political advertising, as well as total advertising costs. But broadcasters did not want to reveal specific individual spots costs.
Stations are not required to post any older political data online — just new information going forward. Smaller stations can seek a waiver based on hardship or other reasons.