Lawmakers criticize FCC rule requiring broadcasters to put files online

The order could impose large costs on broadcasters for uploading the files, as well as for the FCC in developing the database, according to the lawmakers.

The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal on Friday.

The lawmakers also question the need to place the information online in the first place, citing a statement by Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell that there is little evidence that public files aren't already available to anyone who wants to see them.

“The commission must explain the need for this proposal before implementing such a costly endeavor,” they wrote.

They argued that broadcasters are small businesses that would be harmed by this “burdensome” requirement.

They are also worried that revealing the amounts that campaigns pay for ads could be detrimental to competition, and suggest instead that the commission require reporting the aggregate amounts spent by candidates or political action committees (PAC) on ads, not how much it costs for a candidate or PAC to air a particular ad at a given time.

Broadcasters are required by law to maintain files containing certain information on the station's operations, including correspondence from viewers, ownership records and records of ads placed by candidates for public office and political action committees. 

Public files are currently made available by broadcasters to anyone who is willing to travel to the physical location of the file and make an appointment to view it. While some parts of the files can be seen on a station's website, there is no other way by which anyone can view the political advertising records, except in person.