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Web Disclosure Rule Divides the FCC

Magified disclosureIn a House subcommittee hearing on Monday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was peppered with questions about his support for a rule that would require TV broadcasters, and possibly radio stations, to post on the Internet everything in their “political files” regarding political and issue-advocacy ads, a proposal that NRB has opposed along with the National Association of Broadcasters. NRB has argued that such files contain personal information about private citizen advocates who could be harassed when their identities are spread over the web. During the House hearing, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell stated his opposition as well, noting that the Internet posting idea might also force stations to disclose confidential and proprietary advertising pricing information. Chairman Genachowski defended the proposal to the subcommittee, noting that this was part of a plan to move required media disclosures from paper to digital. NRB has noted the similarity between this FCC proposal and the ill-fated DISCLOSE Act, a supposed campaign “reform” measure which divided Congress mostly along party lines and was stopped short of passage by Republicans. The DISCLOSE Act was touted by its Democrat supporters as a protest against the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case, which recognized the free speech rights of non-profit advocacy organizations during election cycles.