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Cable Technology Feature Article

June 21, 2012

Republicans Drop Proposal Nixing Disclosures About Political Ad Buys

By Jacqueline Lee, Contributing Writer

Republican House members have decided to drop a bill that would stop the FCC (News - Alert) from requiring television stations to disclose information about political ad buys by candidates, political parties and outside groups online.

Originally, Republicans sided with television broadcasters, who had complained that disclosing the information also meant disclosing their ad rates. Broadcasters also suggested that the online reporting process would add additional costs for networks.

Democrats countered that filling out papers, filing them and making them available upon request was actually cheaper than posting information about ad buys online. Currently, to find out information about political ad buys, interested citizens have to visit a television station in person to request the information.

The effort to stifle disclosures came up during debate over a bill authorizing continued funding for the FCC. Only television stations in the 50 largest markets have to post information during the present election cycle.

By 2014, all stations will be required to comply with disclosure regulations. The FCC proposed the disclosure of advertising rates last April.

At the end of March, the Media Access Project petitioned the FCC to request that if any single person or company paid for more than 25 percent of an ad buy, the television station would be required to disclose the name of the contributor on air. If an individual pays for more than 10 percent of a political ad, according to the MAP proposal, the person’s name would have to be made available to the public.

Republicans found themselves in the awkward position of looking as though they wanted to prevent the disclosure of campaign ad information to voters. Their intent, according to GOP lawmakers, was to keep FCC regulations from interfering with the private sector.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) stated that Democratic regulations were destroying the economy. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said television fiscal matters were private and should be kept private.

“It is obvious what this is all about and it is embarrassing, frankly,” countered Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. “It looks like you are trying to cover up the fact that these fat cats are coming into these elections and they don’t want their names known.”

Edited by Braden Becker

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