Broadcasters Protest FCC Order to Post Info Online

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Television broadcasters want the D.C. Circuit to toss a Federal Communications Commissions order that requires them to publish their rates for political advertising on a government website.
     The FCC’s order requires free broadcast television networks and stations to post their rates online, but it does not require the same of cable or satellite broadcasters, according to a petition filed Monday by the National Association of Broadcasters.
     Only television stations associated with the top-four network broadcasters serving the 50 largest media markets must deal with the FCC’s order, the group claims.
     For decades all television stations have been required to keep a “public file” that included political advertising rates as well as other information on other areas of public interest, like hours of children’s programming and employment opportunities. This file must be available at their offices for public inspection.
     FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at the time the order was issued that it was “common sense” to switch from paper to digital recordkeeping “so that the public file will be accessible not just to people who can trek to broadcasters’ studios, but to anyone with Internet access.”
     Cost factored into the FCC’s preference for online filing. After sending investigators to the eight broadcast television stations in the greater Boston area that were cited, the commission says it incurred copy costs of nearly $1,700.
     This cost would be nil if broadcasters put their information online.
     But the National Association of Broadcasters estimates that the transition to online posting will costs its members more than $800,000 and at least 2.4 million working hours per year.
     In response the FCC said that broadcasters would only have to post new information online. They would not have to include any information contained in the public file, but not otherwise filed with the commission or available on its website.
     The NAB is represented by Robert Long and Z.W. Julius Chen with Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C.

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