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Senators Push for Online Public Files

Democrats want easier political ad purchase disclosure

The FCC’s proposal to require television stations to put their political file online has gained support in the Senate.

Eight senators, all Democrats, have given their “full support” to the concept. If this is enacted, observers believe it could be expanded to radio in the future.

In a letter Wednesday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the senators said they support the proposal because it would make it easier for the public to determine who is paying for political ads. Right now, that information is required in paper form as part of a station’s public file. The public can see the file by going to the station or some other designated place.

Under the proposal, the files would be hosted on a commission-run website.

“With campaign season in full swing and new ‘Super PACs’ springing up weekly, the public must have access to information about who is funding these ads,” say the eight Democratic senators.

They are Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Mark Begich of Alaska, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Al Franken of Minnesota, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Jon Tester of Montana, Tom Udall, N.M., and Sheldon Whitehouse, R.I.

The senators want the political ad information to be included in a searchable database online, with information about people and organizations that buy political ads.

The NAB has said compliance with the proposed rule would be burdensome for TV stations; some advocacy groups have backed the rule.