FCC wants to put political ad data online; broadcasters balk


Author: Joe Flint
Coverage Type: reporting
Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States

This month, just before the Pennsylvania primary, Mitt Romney's campaign bought a 30-second commercial on CBS-owned KYW-TV Philadelphia that ran during the station's late local news. The ad cost $1,800. That's hardly confidential information. The details of such political advertising purchases are available to anybody willing to schlep to their local television station and ask to see the public files. But now the Federal Communications Commission wants to take that same material, which is required by law to be made available to the public, out of a dusty filing cabinet and onto the Internet.

On April 27, the FCC will vote on whether to make that a new rule. Broadcasters are crying foul. Even though that information is already technically public, they fear putting that level of detail on the Web will undermine their own businesses. "One poker player would, in effect, have had at least a partial glance at the other's hand," broadcast networks CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and Univision wrote in comments. By law, in the weeks leading up to a primary or general election, broadcasters are required to sell candidates ad time at the lowest rate paid by a commercial business in that same show or time of day. (Commercial rates fluctuate on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.) The concern among TV station owners is that commercial advertisers will use the detailed information about rates as leverage in their own negotiations. There is also fear that one station could learn what another is charging and then undercut its rates with advertisers.

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