Republican Sens. Ask FCC to Reconsider Asking Stations to Put Political Files Online - Broadcasting & Cable

Republican Sens. Ask FCC to Reconsider Asking Stations to Put Political Files Online

Argue there is little public interest benefit and that maintaining an online, real-time system would be a bad allocation of resources
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Six Republican senators have asked the FCC to
reconsider its proposal to have TV stations put their political files online.
Those are the records of political time buys that allow the public and
candidates to see what candidates are being charged for time and who is buying
it.  Stations have to provide equal access to federal candidates and
charge them the lowest unit rate for time purchased.

Broadcasters
argue that there is little public interest benefit that the files are available
at each station for those who want to see them, and that to maintain an online,
real-time system would cost staff time and money better spent on local news and
other public service.

In
the letter, the senators, who include Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Roy Blunt
of Missouri, and Rand Paul of Kentucky, argue that the proposal is
"excessive and unnecessary" given that the information is available
already at the local station. They say the transfer of files to a database does
not justify the regulatory and competitive costs.

"Given
these issues along with the heavy compliance costs," they conclude,
"we ask that you reconsider this proposal and maintain the rules as
currently constituted."

Putting
the political files online is part of a larger FCC effort to move station
public files online and into a database managed by the FCC that is more easily
searchable by the public.

Also
signing on to the letter were Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mike Lee of Utah and John Boozman of Arkansas.

"It's
baffling that these senators would want to hide public information in dusty
filing cabinets when it could be made available to their constituents via the
Internet," said Corie Wright, senior policy counsel for Free Press, which
supports online posting. "The public wants and needs to know who's trying to
influence them over the public airwaves -- and the FCC appears to be doing the
right thing by bringing this antiquated system into the 21st century. These
senators should stop trying to hide or obscure this important information."

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