Broadcasters sue to block transparency
This story was originally published by ProPublica.
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.
The National Association of Broadcasters is asking a federal appeals court to block a rule passed by the Federal Communications Commission last month requiring TV stations to post political ad data on the Internet.
In a petition for review filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., the broadcast industry group argues that the rule is "arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the Commission's statutory authority inconsistent with the First Amendment, and otherwise not in accordance with law."
The association represents among others, the parent companies of NBC, CBS, Fox and the broadcasting arm of the Washington Post.
TV stations have long been required to keep detailed information about who buys political ads, how much they paid, and when spots run. But the information is currently kept only on paper at stations. The FCC's new rule, which has not yet gone into effect, would require stations to post the information to a new government website.
In its two-page filing Monday, the broadcast association "requests that this Court hold unlawful, vacate, and set aside the FCC Order and grant such other relief as may be necessary and proper under the circumstances."
As we detailed earlier this year, major media companies had lobbied hard against the rule. They made two primary arguments: first, that posting the information online would be burdensome; and, second, that making ad rate information more accessible would hurt stations' ability to negotiation with non-political advertisers. By law, stations must extend the lowest ad rates to candidates.
If the broadcasters' legal appeal fails, the rule could go into effect as early as July.
Reacting to the broadcasters' filing, an FCC spokesperson said, "The public file rules are a common-sense update by the FCC to move from paper to online access to public information in the digital age. The rules are consistent with Congress's directive to ensure public availability while providing cost-savings for broadcasters."