TV stations are dragging their heels, on posting political ad buys on line. The Federal Communications Commission wants stations in the top fifty markets nationwide to post the contents of their ‘public files’ on the Internet, something Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says is a great idea. “We live in the Internet age, and there’s no reason why people should have to take a trip down to a TV station to paw through some paper records,” says McCabe. “There’s no reason why this can’t be posted on-line so people can see.”
But, claiming First Amendment concerns, the National Association of Broadcasters wants a federal judge to delay implementation of the rule. McCabe says that makes no sense, and Jay Heck with Common Cause agrees. “It’s a good decision by the FCC, it has nothing to do with the First Amendment,” Heck says. “Courts have constantly and continually upheld the right for the public to know with regard to the disclosure of political ads.”
The requirement that stations maintain public files has been in place for decades, and McCabe and Heck both say the requirement to post information on-line is a logical extension of that. Stations in Wisconsin and elsewhere sell millions of dollars of political ads during campaign seasons.