A House Appropriations subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday that includes a provision that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from implementing a rule requiring broadcasters to post online how much political candidates pay for television ads.
The language was included in the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. Specifically, the bill would bar the FCC from using any of its funds to implement the political ad order, which it approved in April.
"The FCC order represents a real compliance cost to broadcasters," subcommittee Chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., said in a statement. "The information in the political file is already available to the public. Anyone who asks for it can get it. This is micromanagement by the FCC, and it leads to important questions about why recipients of campaign dollars are being held to a different standard than the spenders of campaign dollars. Furthermore, I can't support an approach to this issue that singles out television broadcasters but excepts radio, cable TV, satellite radio and TV, newspapers, direct mail, outdoor advertising and the Internet."
Television broadcasters are currently required to make information public about how much political candidates spend on TV ads. But right now, that data is only available at the stations themselves. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has argued that the rule adopted by the commission is a common-sense update aimed at making political spending more transparent.
Broadcasters, however, oppose in particular having to post advertising rate information online, saying it would put them at a competitive disadvantage compared with other video providers. They proposed a compromise, which was rejected by the FCC, that would allow them to post information about who bought political advertising and how much they spent, while allowing stations to keep the advertising rate data secret.
Even as they push for Congress to intervene in the dispute, the National Association of Broadcasters asked a federal court last month to block the FCC rules.
The public interest group Free Press blasted the Appropriations Committee's move to overturn the FCC rule.
"It's clear that the broadcast industry is pulling out all the stops to bury information about political ad spending on the public airwaves," Free Press Senior Policy Counsel Corie Wright said in a statement. "What's more appalling is that some elected officials are willing to help them do it."