Thursday, July 3, 2014

FCC Political TV Ads: New Rule Allows Anyone to Track Spending Online

FCC Political TV Ads: New Rule Allows Anyone to Track Spending Online

Thursday, 03 Jul 2014 12:04 PM
By Clyde Hughes

Exactly who is funding political ads has always been public information, but interested citizens used to have to physically travel to each television station to get it. Under the new rule, political ad buys will be available online from about 1,000 broadcasters around the country, Dennis Wharton, a spokesperson for the National Association of Broadcasters,told The Washington Post.

"Suppose you're running a political campaign. Beginning now, you're going to be able to sit at your computer and find out where your competition has been taking out ads, when they got them for and for how much money," The Post reported. "That kind of information may have always been accessible if you were willing to travel to get it, but now you — or any citizen, for that matter — can find this stuff out from your computer."

Nonprofits like the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks political spending, said the new rule is a victory for transparency in political advertising.

"The expanded online access comes just in time," wrote Kathy Kiely for the Sunlight Foundation blog Monday. "At least six of this year's most hotly contested Senate races — which will likely determine control of the closely-divided chamber — are taking place in states that don't have a top-50 television market: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, and West Virginia. In addition, the public will now be getting online access to the political ad files of important stations that aren't affiliated with the big four broadcast networks, including Spanish-language stations."

The Post said the new rule, though, does not cover cable and satellite television companies not under FCC rule.

"We think there's a fundamental unfairness in that exception," Wharton told the Post.

The top four stations in the top 50 markets have been under the new rules since August 2012 and the Sunlight Foundation has filed a complaint with the FCC against 11 stations for not complying with them, according to Broadcast & Cable.