FCC Petitioned to Extend Political Ad Rule to Cable

     WASHINGTON (CN) - Government transparency groups have requested that the Federal Communications Commission require cable and satellite companies to post political files on the FCC's website. The FCC seeks public comments.
     In 2012, the FCC adopted rules requiring broadcast television stations to post their public file and political advertisement records on the FCC's website. The records show how much was spent on political ads, who spent it, on what, and when, among other things.
     Broadcast television stations, cable companies and satellite television companies already have to keep their public file accessible to the public for two years, but they are not required to put documents online. The files are a way to find out who is spending money on candidates, among those who do not have to report political ads to the Federal Election Commission.
     The political records are supposed to be readily available to anyone who asks to see them, and web access is meant to increase availability.
     There was not enough information to extend the requirement beyond broadcast television, the commission said at the time, and it would "ease the initial implementation of the online public file" to begin with broadcast television.
     The National Association of Broadcasters called the first wave of the public filing requirements "uneventful," in spite of initial concerns. More than half a million items have been uploaded to the public file.
     July 31, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, and the Sunlight Foundation petitioned the FCC to expand the public file requirement to cable and satellite systems.
     In response, the FCC's Media Bureau has requested comments on its proposed expansion of the rule. The bureau also seeks comments on whether it should expand the filing requirements to radio stations.
     Some broadcasters expressed skepticism about the proposed requirements, and questioned whether the same filing requirements are needed for radio.
     The Christian broadcasting network LeSEA Broadcasting said in filed comments that the FCC "simply lumped in radio" to its prior requirements.
     "Broadcast radio listeners are nearly all local, they do not need the FCC's website to find information about their local stations," LeSEA wrote.
     "Listeners can go to the local main studio to view a station's public file, or if a station's studio is not located within its community of license, listeners can call the station, have the file contents described to them, request copies and receive them at no charge."
     AM radio licensee Entertainment Media Trust also opposed the proposed requirements, saying "adding radio stations to the online filing system would represent a 700% increase in necessary resources by the FCC in terms of server capacity, programming requirements and other technical and financial resources."
     The FCC's solicitation of public comments was published in the Federal Register Aug. 27, yet comments were due Aug. 28; reply comments are due by Sept. 8.