In a case that rebuffed a strong lobbying effort by broadcasters, the Federal Communications Commission voted today to require TV stations to post online the ad rates they charge for political spots, the AP reports.
The 2-1 vote came despite opposition to the move by the National Association of Broadcasters, which argued that posting the ad rates would hurt TV stations in the competitive marketplace. The rate information is already made public on hardcopy at the stations.
The AP reports: “The new rule will require stations to digitize and upload the information in real time to the FCC’s website. Network-affiliated stations in the top 50 markets will have six months to comply. For all others, the deadline is 2014.”
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that in the digital age the information shouldn’t be "stuck in a filing cabinet," the story notes.
Among the FCC’s three currently active commissioners, Genachowski and fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn voted in favor of the requirement, while Republican Robert McDowell partially opposed it, the agency said.
The FCC posted a statement on its website, saying: “Broadcasters have kept what are now known as “public files” on paper since 1965 as part of their longstanding obligation to disclose community-relevant information for public review. The public has been able to exercise its right to this information only by visiting a broadcast station and asking to see the public file. Today, without introducing any new substantive requirements, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) updated the existing disclosure procedures to move the public file from paper to the Internet.”
The new order requires broadcasters to move their public files online over a two-year period.
The FCC report adds: “Specifically, the Second Report and Order requires television stations to post their public files online in a central, Commission-hosted online database rather than maintaining paper files locally at their main studios. The Order modernizes the filing process, making it easier for consumers to access information about their broadcast services without having to travel to the station’s main studio.”
The FCC notes that broadcasters will not be required under the new rule to upload existing materials on political rates, but will have to upload new documents going forward. The agency also stipulated that only stations affiliated with the big 4 networks — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox — and only those in the top 50 designated market areas will be required to post the documents.