Washington

Big Four Take Aim at Political File Disclosure Proposal

Argued that stations should not have to put "sensitive pricing information" about political ad rates on their Web sites 2/09/2012 01:33:57 PM Eastern

Representatives from the Big Four networks
visited the FCC this week to push their argument against putting TV stations'
entire political files online and including info on sponsorship IDs and joint
operating agreements in the proposed online public database overseen by the
FCC.

According
to an ex parte notification published on the FCC's Web site, they argued that
stations should not have to put "sensitive pricing information" about
political ad rates on their Web sites, as the FCC has proposed they might have
to do, particularly since their competition -- cable, print, online -- have no
such requirement.

"We
noted the potential anticompetitive effect of making individual advertising
rates information available online where competitors in the market and
commercial advertisers may anonymously glean highly sensitive pricing data,
which, by law, will represent the lowest rates charged by the station to its
most favored commercial advertisers," the notice said of the meeting with
top staffers and the chief of the FCC Media Bureau as well as with a top
staffer for Commissioner Robert McDowell. "We noted the potential this has
for distortion in the market for commercial advertising, to the ultimate
detriment of local television stations and their viewers."

They
pointed out that the FCC's prior decision -- back in 2007 under Republican
Chairman Kevin Martin -- not to put the political file online was correct.

They
also take issue with the FCC proposal to put sponsorship ID info online, saying
it duplicates information already included in end credits of shows where
necessary. "We take great care in the size of the font and the length of
time a sponsorship identification is on the air to ensure that viewers are able
to view this information easily," they said.

They
also said the FCC should wait to decide whether to put information about joint
operating agreements in the online public file until it has decided, in a
separate proceeding, whether it is going to make those arrangements
attributable toward local ownership caps.

The
FCC has proposed creating an online database of TV station public inspection
files to make it easier for the public to inspect them.

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