Broadcasters want FCC enforcement changes for ad disclosure rules

The Federal Communications Commission should change how it enforces rules requiring broadcasters to post ad buy information online, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) said Monday. 

A 2012 rule forced television broadcasters to post information to an online FCC database detailing the size of ad buys and the name of the person, campaign or group who sponsored it, among other information. 

In a filing, the NAB said the commission should consider only allowing local viewers to file complaints when broadcasters fail to fully comply. The change could make it harder for watchdog organizations to make their own complaints when stations fail to properly disclose the information. 

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The NAB said the commission should reconsider its enforcement priorities to reflect the “concerns of local viewers and listeners, rather than the agendas of national advocacy groups unrelated to local communities.”

“It would also reduce spurious allegations against stations, discourage the filing of mass electronic complaints made possible by today’s technology, and conserve the FCC’s limited resources for addressing valid and more locally relevant complaints,” the NAB wrote in the letter. 

Groups like the Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center have previously filed complaints against broadcasters alleging some incorrect filed information about political ad buys. 

Advocates argue the online database has become a tool for journalists and other groups to better track political ad buys during national elections. 

Separately, the NAB endorsed the FCC’s plans to extend the 2012 rule to require cable, satellite and radio companies to post their information online as well. 

The broadcasters specifically cited support for exceptions for smaller radio stations. Broadcasters has initially opposed the disclosure requirements, but have argued for parity. 

“Broadcasters wholly support regulatory parity between video providers’ online public and political file requirements,” the group wrote in a filing. 

The FCC’s initial comment period on the proposed rules end Monday, with a separate reply period going until mid-April.