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NAB Doubts FCC Authority Over Online Political Files

Broadcast trade group says that’s the purview of the Federal Election Commission

NAB says the FCC doesn’t have the authority to make broadcasters place their political files online.

“In the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Congress expressly contemplated that certain election related records would be made available online,” noted the trade organization in a supplemental filing on this topic to the FCC. “By contrast, Congress did not extend this requirement to broadcasters’ political files. The clear implication is that Congress did not intend for broadcasters to be subject to an obligation to place their political files online.”

Congress instead required the Federal Election Commission to place certain election-related records on the Internet and make those accessible to the public, noted the broadcast trade organization, which says without more legislative action, the FCC lacks authority to impose a requirement on broadcasters.

The commission has proposed that television broadcasters place their public files online, making them more accessible to the public, and specifically, making it easier for the audience to see who’s paying for political ads. Under the proposal, the files would be hosted on a commission-run website.

Some advocacy groups support the concept, and were recently joined by eight Democratic members of Congress.

NAB, which worries the concept could eventually spread to radio, argues the change would be burdensome and says there’s need for duplicative disclosure; the information is in station’s paper public files, which are accessible to the public now, argues the trade group.

Also, stations are not the entities placing political ads, nor are they in a position to ensure that the information given to them by an advertiser is correct, counters NAB.