Ferree: Skip the formalities on political ads

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Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau chief Ken Ferree Tuesday
suggested that a Senate proposal requiring the FCC to clarify its process for
reviewing complaints about political ads is not a great idea, although he was
careful to add that he’ll comply if the idea becomes law.

"I would not even think of doing that on my own," Ferree said of a measure
Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) attached to his panel’s broadcast-ownership
legislation.

McCain’s plan calls for the FCC to establish procedures for prompt filing,
review and resolution of complaints about lack of sponsorship identification,
station ad rates, equal access for candidates to ad time and other FCC rules.

The former presidential candidate is partially motivated by the fact that his
complaint about attacks ads against him financed by cronies of President Bush is
still pending at the agency.

Ferree said the FCC dispatches "thousands" of complaints via informal phone
calls reminding stations and advertisers of their legal obligations.

Requiring more structure to the process -- including the obligation to let
targets of complaints file official responses to the charges -- would make it
harder to resolve the mountain of complaints that come in during campaign
seasons.

That McCain’s formal complaint has been pending for more than two years
"indicates what can happen when you file a formal complaint," Ferree said.

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