A coalition of public interest groups on Wednesday called on Senate appropriators not to agree to language included in a House spending bill that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from implementing a rule requiring television stations to post online information about political ad spending.
In April, the FCC adopted a rule that would require TV stations to post online information about how much political candidates spend on television advertising.
But the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee last week approved its version of the fiscal 2013 spending bill with language that would bar the FCC from using any of its funds to implement the political ad order.
Supporters of the FCC rule note that TV stations are already required to make such information public now, though its only available at the stations themselves.
"The laws that have been on the books for decades make clear that Congress intended the information in the political file - which includes requests for and purchases of political ads - to be made publicly available. Thus, the transition to an online public file will ensure that members of the public can enjoy fuller and more meaningful access to the broadcast records they already have a right to view," public interest groups such as Common Cause, Free Press, Public Citizen and the Sunlight Foundation said in a letter to top leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"That some broadcasters would in essence attempt to make it as difficult as possible for the public to access these records is inconsistent with their duties as licensees and trustees of the public airwaves."
Broadcasters oppose the FCC rule -- and have gone to court to try to block it -- because they say having to post information about their ad rates online would put them at a competitive disadvantage.
The Senate Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee approved its version of the fiscal 2013 spending bill on Tuesday but did not include language related to the FCC political file rule. However, the issue could surface during the full committee markup set for Thursday.