Sunlight to FCC: 2,100 Files Missing From Political Database
Group tracking political spending complains that some info has disappeared
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/25/2012 4:01:39 PM
Sunlight has been monitoring and trying to expand the database (through its Political Ad Sleuth project), as has ProPublica, which Sunlight says has most of those missing files in the cloud. Sunlight says it has started backing up the FCC filings so it can preserve the non-paper trail.
In a story on its website, Sunlight Reporting Group's Jake Harper said that broadcasters have been updating ad revisions by replacing the original file, which Sunlight says keeps the public dark on changes like shifts in strategy and spending.
Broadcasters also disagree on interpretations of the requirement -- since Aug. 2 -- of uploading the political files, the group points out, with some uploading only certain agreements with "national significance" or that deal with certain kinds of spots. Then there are mistakes in filing and labeling that can account for some omissions.
"NAB is not sure which files that Sunlight is looking at, but we do know that there have been some system problems that both stations and the FCC are working to correct," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.
Sunlight said the FCC had declined to comment on what it called a "disturbing pattern of disappearing documents." At presstime, the FCC had not returned a request for comment on why it had not replied to Sunlight's request.
Broadcasters have sued the FCC over the requirement, but last month asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to delay hearing its appeal of the mandate from this month until Feb. 15 and reserved the right to drop that legal action "based on experience gained during the 2012 election cycle," or if, instead, the results reinforced the NAB's argument that posting individual spot prices puts it at a competitive disadvantage, the FCC could act on its petition for reconsideration, which offered up an alternative where stations would provide aggregate prices.
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