Genachowski: Broadcaster Political File Compromise Would Have Been Censorship
FCC chairman picks apart broadcasters' arguments against posting files online
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/27/2012 12:08:47 PMFCC Votes to Post TV Station Political Files Online
Sounding every bit the Harvard lawyer, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Friday attempted to pick apart broadcaster arguments against posting online public file reporting requirements the FCC voted to adopt at its public meeting, saying their desire to exclude spot pricing from political files would have been censorship and fly in the face of plain congressional language to the contrary.
The chairman said that opposition to the proposal had morphed over time. One argument, he said, was that there was not need to post public files online because they were readily available at stations. He countered that FCC staffers had been dispatched to Baltimore to test that theory. The result, he said, was that it took 61 hours to collect from eight stations at a copying cost of about $1,700.
Next, he said, the argument was that it was technically infeasible. That was a hard argument to sustain, he said, particularly given that businesses everywhere, including broadcasters, were routinely moving info online.
Then came "burden and cost," he said. The burdens were dramatically overstated he said, and the costs likely were from about $80 to $400.
Then, he said, the arguments moved to political files. He said broadcaster compromise proposals to only include aggregate totals online and keep the spot prices in files at stations would be censoring information the Congress explicitly required in campaign reform law that stations publicize. The question, he said, was whether making those public mean locked away in filing cabinets or readily available online. He suggested the answer was simply common sense.
As to arguments that the information was already available through the FEC, he repeated that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law required broadcasters to make the information public.
He said he was not surprised that broadcasters had opposed the requirement. He pointed out they had fought the political file reporting requirement all the way to the Supreme Court back in 2002 before losing.
He did say he appreciated the "small group" of broadcasters who recognized the value of online public file postings and had worked "valiantly" on a workable proposal.
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