Broadcasters have gone to court to challenge new rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last month requiring television stations to post online the rates that political candidates pay for political ads.
The National Association of Broadcasters filed a petition Monday against the FCC's rules making TV stations post information online about political ads, including the rates broadcasters charge political candidates and groups that run issue-related political ads. TV stations are already required to make such information public but currently it is only available at the stations themselves.
The NAB has argued that requiring stations to post ad rates online will put them at a competitive disadvantage. They say it's unfair that only broadcasters are required to post such information, while other video providers such as cable operators are exempt. Before the FCC adopted the order, broadcasters offered to post information on who bought the political ads and how much they spent in total, but the FCC rejected the compromise.
"The commission's changes to broadcasters' disclosure obligations and other operations as well as other action taken in the FCC order will directly and adversely impact NAB and the broadcasters it represents," NAB said in the petition it filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals. "NAB seeks relief from the commission's actions on the groups that it is arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the commission's statutory authority, inconsistent with the First Amendment and otherwise not in accordance with law."
FCC officials argue that the move is long overdue and will help provide more transparency about political spending. At the same time, they say it's costly and time consuming to obtain rate information directly from stations.
"The public file rules are a common-sense update by the FCC to move from paper to online access to public information in the digital age," an FCC spokesman said in a statement. "The rules are consistent with Congress's directive to ensure public availability while providing cost savings for broadcasters."
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