House Appropriators Vote to Block New FCC Regs to Put Public Files Online
Yesterday, by an 8-4 party-line vote, House Republican Appropriators on the Financial Services Subcommittee voted to keep voters in the dark about who is spending what in our upcoming elections. The FY13 funding bill reported out of Subcommittee included a rider prohibiting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from implementing a new order requiring broadcasters to put their political files online instead of on paper.
“Broadcasters have already filed a lawsuit in an attempt to avoid making their public files truly public, but now they are also calling in their chits with their friends on Capitol Hill,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director. “Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) is to be commended for offering an amendment to strip the language from the bill. As this measure moves through Congress, the Legal Center will continue to push for a final measure without this offending rider.”
Under statutes that have been on the books for decades, TV broadcasters must maintain files about requests for political advertising time. That information is open to public inspection and includes information about when the spots aired, the rates charged, and the classes of time purchased.
“The claim by House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) that ‘television station fiscal matters are private and should be kept private’ is plainly inaccurate and is contrary to existing laws that have been on the books for decades,” added McGehee. “The argument that the change away from paper is burdensome is ridiculous on its face.”
Television stations already use computers for virtually every task, yet they want to keep the political file exclusively on paper. They want employees to continue to print computer files, place a copy in a filing cabinet, accompany anyone who wants to look at the file and accommodate copying requests. It defies reason to say this 20th Century process is less burdensome than the few keystrokes it would take to upload the data already in the station’s computers.