Washington

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 6/11/2012 05:26:34 PM Eastern

Major broadcast groups have asked the FCC to reconsider its
requirement that they put sensitive political information online
"immediately and for everybody to see," offering an opt-in
alternative for broadcasters they say would expand the reporting requirement
without diminishing their ability to compete in the marketplace.

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.

September
October