The Sunlight Foundation is holding a seminar Oct. 9 to help it team of political ad sleuths decipher TV stations' online political files.
Starting in August, the FCC required the top four affiliates in the top 200 markets to file records of political ad buys, including who bought them and how much they paid.
Sunlight, a nonprofit trying to provide more transparency about political ad buys in particular and government info in general, has pointed out that will reveal only a fraction of the buys, including in swing states, and launched a Political Ad Sleuth project to encourage people to go to their local stations and collect the info themselves as well as monitor the FCC's online postings.
On Oct. 9, it is holding a webinar to help those sleuths read political files, including uncovering the "dark money" spending.
"This election year is the first time there exists online a database of political ad files from TV stations, but it's limited to the top four stations in the top 50 media markets," explained Sunlight, "and that data is still hard to decipher," as well.
Broadcasters opposed the online posting requirement, arguing that posting individual spot prices would put them at a competitive disadvantage to cable operator, show also have to maintain political files per FCC rules, but don't have to post them online.
Recently, though, the National Association of Broadcasters asked a court to delay hearing its challenge to the requirement, saying it would monitor the process through the elections and could opt to drop the suit. The FCC has already promised to review the top 50/top 200 requirement in a year and make any necessary adjustments before applying it to all stations a year after that.