The LA Times reports that Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee are moving to block the implementation of a new FCC rule that would require TV stations to make their records of political ad buys available online. That rule would make it much easier to track campaign spending leading up to elections.
An effort to require television stations to make records about political ad buys available online was blocked Thursday by Republicans on a House Appropriations Committee panel.
The proposal, which had cleared the Federal Communications Commission in April, would require TV stations affiliated with the four top networks in the 50 largest markets to post political ad sales records online. Stations are already required to make the records available to the public upon request, but most stations keep them in paper files, making it difficult to compile and track the information…
The House Appropriations Committee’s financial services subcommittee voted Thursday on a party-line vote to approve a funding bill that included a rider blocking the FCC from implementing its proposal.
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) had attempted unsuccessfully to strip the rider from the bill before the committee’s vote.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) argued that “television station fiscal matters are private and should be kept private.”
It’s not clear to me whether this actually blocks the rule, or would only do so if the bill it is attached to passes and is signed into law. I would think the latter is true, but it may be that there’s some oversight function by the subcommittee that allows them to block rules without the passage of a bill. Either way, it’s a bad idea. And Rogers’ argument is absurd. Those records are already available, they’re just a pain in the butt to compile. Putting them online allows far greater and easier transparency, but those records are already public, not private.
Here’s a video of a bunch of journalism students visiting local stations to dig up that information themselves. It was very difficult. And ironically, three of the four stations would not allow them to bring a videocamera into the stations to show how it’s done.