Commercial TV and Radio Group Tries to Thwart Disclosure of Income From Political Ads

February 3, 2012 - On Jan. 23, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed another in a series of comments to the FCC opposing new rules that would require broadcast TV stations to post information online about the political ads they air. Current FCC rules only require that broadcast TV and radio stations maintain a “public inspection file” (PIF) at their studio, which is to be made freely available to the public. The PIF contains information that is of public interest, including the so-called “political file,” which contains a record of air time purchases for political ads.

Interest groups representing commercial TV and radio stations, such as the National Association of Broadcasters, have opposed new FCC rules that would require stations to post their public inspection files online. Previously, viewing the file was only possible by visiting a station's main studio. In a comment, the NAB argued that posting the information online, “would provide no clear new benefit to the public but would be a new burden on broadcasters.”

The claim of no clear new benefit comes despite the fact that 2012 is expected to be one of the most expensive election cycles in history, brought about by the influx of so-called super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence political outcomes.

For the recent Florida Republican primary alone, campaigns and super PACs aligned with presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich spent $15.6 million and $3.3 million, respectively, on advertising, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Interest groups representing TV and radio stations that benefit financially from these ads have also contributed millions to the campaigns of members of Congress. MapLight has conducted an analysis of campaign contributions to members of Congress by interest groups representing Commercial TV & radio stations.

METHODOLOGY: MapLight analysis of campaign contributions connected to Commercial TV & Radio Stations to current members of Congress. Contribution date range for House members is July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011 and Senate members is July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2011. Campaign contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org).

About MapLight: MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that reveals money's influence on politics. If our work has been helpful to you, please consider supporting us.