Journalism in the Public Interest

Broadcasters Sue to…Block Transparency

The National Association of Broadcasters argue that the FCC’s new rule requiring the posting of political ad data is “arbitrary” and “capricious.” 


(File photo from Getty Images)

Updated 5/22 to include the FCC's response

The National Association of Broadcasters is asking a federal appeals court to block a rule passed by the Federal Communications Commission last month requiring TV stations to post political ad data on the Internet.

In a petition for review filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., the broadcast industry group argues that the rule is "arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the Commission's statutory authority inconsistent with the First Amendment, and otherwise not in accordance with law."

The association represents, among others, the parent companies of NBC, CBS, Fox and the broadcasting arm of the Washington Post.

TV stations have long been required to keep detailed information about who buys political ads, how much they paid, and when spots run. But the information is currently kept only on paper at stations. The FCC's new rule, which has not yet gone into effect, would require stations to post the information to a new government website.

In its two-page filing Monday, the broadcast association "requests that this Court hold unlawful, vacate, and set aside the FCC Order and grant such other relief as may be necessary and proper under the circumstances."

As we detailed earlier this year, major media companies had lobbied hard against the rule. They made two primary arguments: first, that posting the information online would be burdensome; and, second, that making ad rate information more accessible would hurt stations' ability to negotiation with non-political advertisers. By law, stations must extend the lowest ad rates to candidates.

If the broadcasters' legal appeal fails, the rule could go into effect as early as July.

Reacting to the broadcasters' filing, an FCC spokesperson said, "The public file rules are a common-sense update by the FCC to move from paper to online access to public information in the digital age. The rules are consistent with Congress's directive to ensure public availability while providing cost-savings for broadcasters."

Interesting that their two arguments (that it’s hard to e-mail a spreadsheet and that they need to lie to potential clients to stay in business) are entirely unrelated to their petition that this violates their right to free expression.  It’s almost like they’re trying everything they can in hopes that some excuse will sound sufficiently reasonable.

Ban TV NEWS commercials!

Would a Federal Law banning commercials from television news programs result in a more informed, enlightened, and educated public? Would this law lessen such media abuses as false accusations, sensationalism, character assassinations, ,defamation, invasion of privacy and related injustices to individuals who under the Constitution are supposedly innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The television industry has corrupted news (non-fiction facts and information of current happenings in our immediate environment and the world at large). into entertainment for the consuming public for profits.
The solution to this intolerable assault on our basic rights of privacy and “presumption of innocence” is to de-commercialize the news. By making news programs public service events, you will eliminate the profit motive and related pressures and injustices. Viewers will no longer be potential customers and the news will no longer be entertainment for the consuming masses. As long as we continue to reward the established commercial television news network industry with greater ratings/ profits and power for lying to US then the longer this corrupt distortion of our fundamental right to know will continue. .
Since the airways supposedly belong to the public, give US a few hours of nightly commercial-free news. Justice and people’s lives and rights are too important to be used as entertainment in the pursuit of higher ratings and greater profits for the Networks!
By freeing television news, from this commercial pressure and competition,  will result in:
1. Less sensationalism , malicious slander and defamation of innocent people’s lives and rights,
2. Less exploitation of violence for entertainment and
3.. Less distortion of reality and truth.
4. Resulting in More confidence and trust of the media leading to a less confused and less cynical public with
5. A more balanced and truthful view of reality resulting in
6.  more informed, enlightened and educated viewers.
Therefore,  in summary, commercial-free television news would result in a better informed, enlightened and educated viewing public, consequently creating a more humane and just society that will better meet the needs and goals of all its people.

These folks are guileless. The authors of the Constitution regarded a free press as critical to a vibrant democracy. They respond is a bloodless commercial matter ignoring the fact that are licensed to operated over public airways. Those licenses are not granted in perpetuity.

Excellent comment Tom.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

May 25, 2012, 2:59 a.m.

This is the Obama Administration merely heckling television with this, particularly Fox News, as a way to to incite crowd-sourced hatred and bullying against their political opponents.

They should not be using the resources of government to fight their partisan political battles in this fashion.

Catherine, the FCC has little to no authority over cable television.  They deal almost entirely with broadcasts.  If this has anything to do with Fox News, then it’s one hell of a banked shot, since it wouldn’t affect them in the slightest.

And considering the way Obama will be advertising, I don’t think he’s behind this.  That’d be shooting himself in the foot.

The broadcasters are airing the ads on the PUBLIC AIRWAVES and are licensed to do so by the FCC so the public DESERVES to know who is paying for these ads and how much they are paying. The right wing is trying to destroy any notion of things that are public or held in common and this is another baldfaced attempt to co-opt the rights of the people. The courts can no longer be trusted to understand the concept of things PUBLIC so I’m not optimistic that they will find for the people.

Yes. “Find for the people” What does that mean anyway?...
‘Find for the money’...Now that’s one I am familiar with!

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Free the Files

Free the Files

Outside groups are spending hundreds of millions to influence the coming elections. Help unlock outside spending by "freeing" political ad buys from television stations in swing markets.

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