TV Disclosure Dust-Up on Capitol Hill

The issue of posting television public files online stirred debate this week between Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the FCC.  In a hearing of House Financial Services & General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees FCC funding, Chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) questioned FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on the reasoning behind this proposal.  She and FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell expressed concern with the burden of the idea on TV broadcasters and its potential mission-creep into the territory of the Federal Election Commission.  FCC Chairman Genachowski and Rep. José Serrano (D-NY), the top Democrat on the Subcommittee, defended the proposal in the name of transparency.

The FCC proposed last fall that television broadcasters’ public files, including their “political file,” be posted online on a public server.  NRB filed public comments urging the FCC to reject this proposal requiring mandatory Internet disclosure by television stations of "political files" and information related to issue-advocacy organizations. NRB President & CEO Dr. Frank Wright stated, “Current FCC disclosure mandates are more than adequate, making these new proposed regulations ill-conceived because they would make ordinary Americans – who just happen to be active in a particular political cause – vulnerable to targeted attacks by individuals or groups that disagree with them.”

  • Watch the House Appropriations Subcommittee debate on this topic.
  • Read NRB’s public comments opposing mandatory online disclosure of the “political file.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations