FCC Takes Welcome Step on Political Ads But Stronger Action Needed
- Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
Statement by Michael Copps, Common Cause Special Advisor and former FCC Commissioner
“Action on the public file is one small step for man; using FCC authority to demand accountability in political ads would be one giant leap for mankind. Let’s get this done now.”
Background: Today’s FCC order requires radio stations, cable systems, and satellite channels to post online information about purchases of political advertising on their stations. The postings, previously available only on paper at station offices, will be accessible to anyone with Internet access. Unfortunately, the commission did not specify a particular format for filing, so journalists and other researchers will be challenged to collect and organize the data to give voters a clear picture of the people and groups behind broadcast efforts to influence their votes. Broadcast television stations already are subject to a similar online posting requirement.
As Commissioner Copps noted, the FCC so far has failed to act on repeated requests that it exercise its long-established authority to require broadcasters to provide for in-ad disclosure of the true sponsors of political ads. Political ads typically end with a disclaimer like “Paid for by Citizens for Decency” that conceals the real identity of their sponsors. Longstanding provisions of the Communications Act give the FCC authority to require more detailed disclosures.