When the FCC began requiring the largest television stations in the
largest markets to upload their public files to a commission-created
website last August, the agency asked for industry input on how the
system is working — or isn’t.
Comments were due to the agency this week about its online public
file system. The commission asked for input on the political file
specifically, before smaller market stations and facilities not
affiliated with a major television network must comply in 2014.
NAB challenged the new law in federal court. That petition for review
remains on hold pending completion of the FCC’s comment cycle and the
commission’s action on a reconsideration petition from a television
This week, NAB told the FCC that while the limited experience of the
2012 election season has given the trade group some insights on the
effect of the online political file, the effect will really be known
only when all stations must post their files online. “The impact of this
requirement is likely to be different and the experience more difficult
for stations in smaller markets and those with fewer resources,” the
trade group tells the commission.
Overall, the posting of political files was uneventful, writes NAB,
however a small mistake can have large consequences. The trade group
notes that some media buyers had “large sums” of money stolen from their
bank accounts after some stations, following their long-standing
practices, uploaded images of payment checks to their online political
files. Similar or other unintended consequences may become more common
as the number of stations posting their political files increases
dramatically, says NAB.
That’s why NAB is asking the FCC to hold off on deciding on the
merits of the changes proposed in the pending reconsideration petition
until all stations in all markets have gone through “at least one
election cycle” under the online political file requirement.
“Station personnel with limited resources to devote to maintaining
the political file during these concentrated bursts of activity may, for
instance, err on the side of including more information in the file
than is necessary, which can have serious consequences when the
information is posted immediately online. The example noted earlier of
money stolen from media buyers is but one possibility,” notes NAB.
The broadcast trade group continues to believe compelling TV stations
to post their public and political files online, when cable and
satellite operators are exempt from doing so, is wrong because of the
sensitive nature of the political advertising rates involved. “This
regulatory and competitive disparity is only becoming more indefensible,
as political advertising on other outlets increases,” according to NAB.