NAB expresses displeasure with FCC political file decision

The NAB expressed disappointment with the FCC’s decision April 27 to require broadcasters to place their political file online.

“NAB respectfully disagrees with today’s FCC decision, and we’re disappointed that the commission rejected compromise proposals proffered by broadcasters that would have brought greater transparency to political ad buying,” NAB Executive VP of Communications Dennis Wharton said in a statement on the association’s website.

The FCC April 27 adopted a Second Report and Order that makes it mandatory for television broadcasters to begin making their public file available on the Internet via an FCC-hosted online database.

The Report and Order replaces existing agency rules that have applied to commercial and non-commercial TV broadcasters for decades. Those rules required stations to maintain their public file at their main studios.

The new rules phase in the requirement for broadcasters to make the political portion of their public file available online. For the next two years, only stations affiliated with the top four national networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) licensed in the top 50 Designated Market Areas will be required to post the political file portion of their public file to the new database. All other stations are exempt from posting their political file documents to their online public file until July 1, 2014.

“By forcing broadcasters to be the only medium to disclose on the Internet our political advertising rates, the FCC jeopardizes the competitive standing of stations that provide local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather information free of charge to tens of millions of Americans daily,” Wharton said in the online statement.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and commissioner Mignon Clyburn voted to affirm the entire order. Commissioner Robert McDowell dissented on the portions of the order requiring the political file to be posted online.

In his dissent, McDowell said the record in the proceeding “contains ample evidence that posting rate information online may cause market distortions, including price signaling.”

“We appreciate commissioner McDowell’s thoughtful and compelling dissent,” Wharton said in the online statement, “and we will be seeking guidance from our Board of Directors regarding our options.”