Marching Towards Real Disclosure

Marching Towards Real Disclosure

New requirements that broadcasters post information online about their political advertising don't go far enough

Our campaign for campaign ad transparency picked up some steam on Thursday as allies in Congress reiterated their support – just in time for the 2014 elections.

Since July, the FCC has required all television broadcasters to post their “public files” online. These files contain information on the timing and cost of political ads, including the names of their sponsors. Online access makes it easier for voters, researchers, and advocates to keep up with who is trying to influence elections. 

This was such a good idea that we joined with allies at the Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center in asking the FCC to extend the online filing requirement to cable, satellite and radio broadcasters. 

On Thursday, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Henry Waxman and Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter to the FCC supporting our request, stating:

“We urge you to take these commonsense steps to improve transparency and ensure unfettered public access to this critically important information.”

They are absolutely right – this is common sense. But it’s only the first step. A station’s public files contain the name of the group running an ad, but not its actual sponsors. This means that viewers curious about who is running ads in support of mountain top removal and environmental destruction may see only “Voters for Clear Skies” listed as the “sponsor.” They would be in the dark about whether the group gets its money from environmental activists or chemical companies.

We need the FCC to use its longstanding authority to require in-ad disclosure of the “true identity” of an ad’s sponsorship. That way, viewers would see or hear disclosures like “This ad brought to you by Charles and David Koch” or “Paid for by Tom Steyer.”

We have a right to know.