Broadcast Groups Petition FCC to Reconsider Political File Posting Decision
Say putting spot prices online "is anticompetitive and disrupts markets"; offers aggregate price reporting alternative
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/11/2012 5:26:34 PM
In a petition filed on Monday, the deadline for filing for reconsideration of the FCC's April vote requiring the posting of TV station public files online, the broadcasters against pressed for a compromise of posting aggregate political spot figures.
Broadcasters signing on to the petition are Barrington, Belo, Cox, Scripps, Hearst, Gannett, LIN, Meredith, Post-Newsweek, Raycom and Schurz.
The broadcast groups offered the aggregate alternative before the April vote, but the FCC chose not to take them up on it. They say in the petition they are not generally opposed to the scope of the disclosure requirements, the goal of making public files available on the FCC website or retaining current public file requirements.
The petition argues that the broadcast proposal has the following advantages over the FCC's order: "(1) online disclosure of useful aggregated information on spending by or about candidates that is not currently required to be disclosed; (2) broader disclosure of information on political issue ads generally, not just the limited category of issues for which disclosure is required under the BCRA (the McCain-Feingold bill) [but also including state and local issues not covered by BCRA]; (3) avoidance of online disclosure of competitively sensitive pricing information among competitors - which is a major defect of the Second Report and Order requirements; (4) online disclosure of specific, relevant, and useful information that will facilitate analysis by the general public, researchers, journalists, and scholars; and (5) clarification that the proposed alternative would be available on an "opt in" basis, meaning that individual broadcasters could instead elect to comply with the requirements contained in the Second Report and Order if they have concerns with respect to the Television Station Group's proposal."
The FCC is requiring the top four affiliates in the top 50 markets to start sending it political file info 30 days after the OMB completes its paperwork review of the rules. The rest of the stations would have to start sending it to the FCC for online posting after two years. The FCC would seek comment and review the top 50 market requirement after a year to see how it has worked.
The broadcasters aren't waiting to weigh in, suggesting their proposal could strike "an appropriate balance between transparency and avoiding the anticompetitive consequences of spot-by-spot rate disclosures."
The National Association of Broadcasters has sued to block the political file posting order in court, and there is a bill in Congress that would defund any implementation of the order.
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