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Capitol Hill Weighs In on Online Public File

Three Democrats press Wheeler to extend requirements to radio, satellite and cable

Three influential congressional Democrats are pushing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to extend online public file contents, including political advertising files, to radio, cable and satellite companies.

Earlier this year three consumer advocacy groups petitioned the agency about the issue, saying extending the requirements would increase transparency around political advertising funds. Television broadcasters are already required to upload their files to an FCC-maintained online database.

Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo of California, as well as Florida Sen. Bill Nelson favor the expansion, telling Wheeler in a letter the 2014 election is projected to be “the most expensive midterm election cycle in U.S. history. Given this trend, it’s imperative that the FCC expand its online filing requirement to cable and satellite operators, as well as broadcast radio licensees.”

The agency’s comment period closed last week on the issue. Many of the broadcasters who filed public comments believe the commission’s database will be overwhelmed by the addition of uploaded documents from some 15,000 radio stations; they note the system crashes now when some 1,800 TV stations have a heavy filing day.

Most radio owners say few members of the public ask to see the public file; given that the file is for the local, listening public, they question why national advocacy groups are pressing the issue.

NAB says there should be a separate proceeding for radio, and the agency should consider the ramifications of all the above before going forward.