Originally published: June 12, 2012
Last updated: June 12, 2012 - 6:10pm
[Commentary] A House appropriations subcommittee voted last week to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from doing its job. The FCC, by law, has long required broadcasters to maintain at the station public files about all political ads sold — including information about the names of sponsors or names of executives or board of directors of sponsoring entities, the amount paid and the time slot. The FCC, finally recognizing the 21st century, ordered in late April that major TV stations in large markets had to make this information available on the Internet — so the public has ready access.
Perhaps the House subcommittee members have not read the Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United. “With the advent of the Internet,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide stockholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. … Citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called money interests … and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
Justice Kennedy was right about the Internet — and the House subcommittee is wrong.
[Newton N. Minow is a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Henry Geller is a former general counsel of the FCC]
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