Court Denies NAB Effort to Delay Online Posting

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The U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit on Friday denied the National Association of Broadcasters' petition for an emergency stay of the Aug. 2 deadline for TV stations to start posting their public files online, including political files for the top 200 network affiliates.

"Petitioner has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review," said the court without elaboration.

Two weeks ago, NAB asked the court to block the Federal Communications Commission's implementation of its online political file rule. That was only one in a series of broadcaster moves to try and stop the agency from posting individual TV station political spot prices online, while cable and satellite competitors have no similar online reporting requirement.

Scheduled to take effect Aug. 2, the rules require the top four network affiliated stations in the top 50 markets to start sending any information they must keep in their station paper political files, including spot prices, to the FCC for posting in a national, online database. The FCC will do a year-in check of the process then plans to apply the requirement to all TV stations a year after that.

In its petition, NAB, which has already asked the same court to overturn the rules and had asked the FCC to stay enforcement of them, had said the emergency stay was warranted because it is likely to win its court challenge on the merits and that it is likely to suffer competitive harms if there is no stay -- essentially the same arguments it made to the FCC in calling for it to postpone enforcement until the court weighs in. The court did not agree.

The FCC has already denied the stay request, so it looks as though the Aug. 2 deadline will have to be met.

"We are pleased, but not surprised, that the court cleared the way for the online public file rules to take effect on August 2," said Free Press policy counsel Corie Wright. "The court rightly rejected the NAB's latest feeble attempt to curb public access to station political files. The NAB's case for delay was incredibly weak, as today's decision confirmed."

"NAB is disappointed by the panel's decision," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Even though the stay request was rejected, NAB's court challenge to this new rule will continue and be debated on the merits in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. We continue to believe it is fundamentally unfair for local TV stations to be the only medium required to disclose on the Internet sensitive advertising rate information."