Eshoo Wants Cable Political Files Online

4/23/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the
ranking member of the House Communications
Subcommittee, wants the Federal Communications
Commission to expand its planned requirement that
TV stations post their political files online be expanded
to cable and satellite political files.

Political files are the files, currently residing in paper
form at local stations and multichannel video programming
distributors (MVPDs), that record political
ad time buys, per requirements to provide equal access
and lowest-unit-rate charges.

Broadcasters have complained that real-time filing
for that information will be a burden, especially
on smaller stations, and require people hours and resources
that will be taken away from local news and
other important public-service functions.

Eshoo wrote that she had “no doubt” the FCC could
craft rules that would ease the process for smaller stations
and minimize staff time that would have to be
devoted to the task. She said not putting the information
on the Internet was “inexcusable” given that the
technology was available to bring disclosure “into the
21st century.”

Eshoo said creating an FCC-hosted website is
an “encouraging start.” She also said she supported
“future action” to bring the public files of cable
and satellite providers online. The FCC has not
proposed extending the requirement of online filing
to cable and satellite operators, not that MSOs
were complaining.

The FCC is confining itself to TV stations in its disclosure
item teed up for an April 27 vote because that
item is responsive directly to an ongoing proceeding
related to TV station public-interest obligations, but
it has the authority to hit MVPDs with the same requirement.

“The FCC has the authority under the Communications
Act to extend this both to cable and radio,”
Free Press senior policy adviser Corie Wright said.
“I think that going forward, parity across these platforms
in terms of online access to political files is very

However, the FCC had its priorities straight by targeting
TV stations first, Wright said, since broadcast
outlets capture “the lion’s share” of political ads. “It is
important for the FCC to nail this one down first, but
going forward they should apply them to cable and
radio as well,” she said.

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