Broadcasters look to delay political ad rule

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The lawsuit, which the NAB filed in May, alleges that the FCC overstepped its authority and that the rule is "arbitrary and capricious."

The group said its member stations will suffer "irreparable harm" if the FCC begins enforcing the rule on schedule.

TV stations were already required to compile data on how much political campaigns paid for ads, but previously, anyone who wanted access to the information would have to go to the station in person. The new rule will require the broadcasters to load the information into a database on the FCC's website.

The FCC says the rule is part of its effort to put more information online, and watchdog groups hope the rule will shed light on the big money behind political ad campaigns by making the data more accessible. The 2012 election is expected to see an influx of spending from outside groups such as super-PACs.

But the NAB argues the rule will give an unfair advantage to its satellite and cable competitors.

"Non-broadcast competitors will be able to determine in a matter of seconds exactly what prices local broadcast stations are charging for specific spots," the group wrote in Tuesday's filing. "As a result, they will acquire an unfair advantage over broadcasters in the competition for political and commercial advertising, just as a poker player who is able to peak at an opponent’s hand acquires an unfair advantage in a poker game." 

The broadcasters noted that political advertising is a big business; campaigns and outside groups spend more than a $1 billion on television advertising during election years. They argued that if the online database allows satellite and cable providers to undercut their prices, broadcasters could lose millions of dollars.

But granting NAB's petition would likely delay the requirement until after the election, preventing the public from accessing online information about the expected barrage of advertisements.

If the FCC declines to delay the rule, the NAB could ask the court to impose a stay.