Washington

Broadcasters Take FCC to Court Over Political File Posting

Say it was arbitrary and capricious decision, and court should overturn it 5/22/2012 09:31:29 AM Eastern

The National Association of Broadcasters has taken the FCC
to court over its decision last month to make broadcasters put their political
files online.

In a filing with the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia, NAB says the FCC was arbitrary and capricious.

Broadcasters tried to reach a compromise whereby they would
not have to put actual prices online, but the commission majority said since
those prices were available in individual station files, it was simply bringing
that congressionally-mandated reporting requirement into the digital age.

NAB wants the court to vacate the FCC order.

The commission will
initially require
the online political posting from TV stations affiliated with
the Big Four networks in the top 50 markets -- within 30 days after the rules
take effect -- then the rest of the stations two years after that.
The other public files must be posted by all stations within six months after
the rules go into effect. It will not require posting existing political file
information (it must be kept for two years), only new information going
forward.

The commission will examine the impact of the political file
online posting after a year, before it applies to all stations.

"The public file rules are a common-sense update by the FCC to move from paper to online access to public information in the digital age," said an FCC spokesman. "The rules are consistent with Congress's directive to ensure public availability while providing cost-savings for broadcasters."

"This is nothing more than an attempt by the NAB to stall an important and overdue transparency initiative," said Free Press senior policy counsel Corie Wright. "The FCC decision to put the political files online will bring broadcasters into the 21st century, and will make already public information more easily accessible to everyone. The FCC made the right decision and is on firm legal ground."

FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake had said the goal was to get the new requirements in place in this election cycle, but the suit could delay that timetable.

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