Genachowski: Broadcaster Political File Compromise Would Have Been Censorship

FCC chairman picks apart broadcasters' arguments against posting files online
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FCC Votes to Post TV Station Political Files Online

Sounding every bit the Harvard lawyer, FCC Chairman Julius
Genachowski Friday attempted to pick apart broadcaster arguments against
posting online public file reporting requirements the FCC voted to adopt at its
public meeting, saying their desire to exclude spot pricing from political
files would have been censorship and fly in the face of plain congressional
language to the contrary.

The chairman said that opposition to the proposal had
morphed over time. One argument, he said, was that there was not need to post
public files online because they were readily available at stations. He
countered that FCC staffers had been dispatched to Baltimore to test that
theory. The result, he said, was that it took 61 hours to collect from eight
stations at a copying cost of about $1,700.

Next, he said, the argument was that it was technically
infeasible. That was a hard argument to sustain, he said, particularly given
that businesses everywhere, including broadcasters, were routinely moving info
online.

Then came "burden and cost," he said. The burdens
were dramatically overstated he said, and the costs likely were from about $80
to $400.

Then, he said, the arguments moved to political files. He
said broadcaster compromise proposals to only include aggregate totals online
and keep the spot prices in files at stations would be censoring information
the Congress explicitly required in campaign reform law that stations
publicize. The question, he said, was whether making those public mean locked
away in filing cabinets or readily available online. He suggested the answer was
simply common sense.

As to arguments that the information was already available
through the FEC, he repeated that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform
law required broadcasters to make the information public.

He said he was not surprised that broadcasters had opposed
the requirement. He pointed out they had fought the political file reporting
requirement all the way to the Supreme Court back in 2002 before losing.

He did say he appreciated the "small
group" of broadcasters who recognized the value of online public file
postings and had worked "valiantly" on a workable proposal.

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