Broadcasters Would Rather Not Have To Post Political Ad Rates Online

Last month, the FCC approved a new rule that requires broadcasters who air political ads to post on their websites the rates they charge — and other related information — for these commercials. This isn’t sitting well with the broadcasters, who filed suit to stop the rule change.

Currently, if consumers want to see this information — which includes the ad rates and the number of times each ad is aired — they have to visit the actual station and look at it in person.

To the FCC, it’s a “common-sense update… to move from paper to online access to public information in the digital age… The rules are consistent with Congress’s directive to ensure public availability while providing cost savings for broadcasters.”

But the broadcasters don’t see it that way.

The suit, filed by the National Association of Broadcasters with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., alleges that the rules would give competing stations the ability to easily find out each other’s ad rates for political TV spots. Additionally, the NAB says it’s unfair that the rule does not apply to cable channels.

Broadcasters Challenge New Online-Disclosure Rules [WSJ.com]

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  1. Cooneymike says:

    But what about the Children? The Children!!

  2. Coffee says:

    This suit is without merit…if the rates are posted on each broadcaster’s website, all it takes is one employee to do some light sleuthing for a few hours, plug numbers into a spreadsheet, and be done with it. This new rule would do nothing to help them other than make the information slightly easier to access and organize. The people who don’t have the time to sleuth – the general public – are the ones who benefit from this. Boo, paper tiger lawsuit. Boo.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      There is ONE merit. This rule should also apply to all cable, fiber, and satellite entities that do ad insertions and carry political ads. It should also apply to radio.

      • Coffee says:

        Okay…I’ll grant you that…so I guess they’re saying that they don’t wanna, but if they hafta, so should everyone else. I agree with the latter sentiment.

        • JJFIII says:

          Again, cable is not broadcast over the airwaves. It is not controlled by the FCC. You can say fuck or shit on cable. Many do not because of advertisers, but the FCC has no ability to fune unless the law changes.

      • JJFIII says:

        The FCC does not have the authority granted to force cable stations to provide the data. The OVER THE AIR networks were granted rights (their license) to airwaves in exchange for their following the FCC rules. If they are unhappy with the rules they could always turn in the license, since the airwaves are actually owned by the public In fact, without the FCC the way real estate law reads, I have the rights to ALL the airspace above my home. If I wanted to block the signal I could. Another reason for regulation in this world.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        The FCC would fucking *LOVE* to do that. But they’re not *ALLOWED* to do that. That argument has as much merit as complaining to your parents that your friend Johnny got a pony for *HIS* birthday.

    • wren337 says:

      worse, it sounds like the stations are already required to provide this information, but – on paper, at the station. so this is really just a modernization act to move it online. but the stations prefer it in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.

  3. nugatory says:

    I agree. It should apply to cable channels. Actually it should be for any form of political advertising.

    I’d love to see how much is spent on those very annoying plastic signs on the side of the road.

    • nbs2 says:

      File for office. You think you get a lot of junk mail now? The amount of crap that I got was astounding. Oh, and the robocalls….I can’t forget those abominations.

    • galm666 says:

      I really wonder how effective those stupid plastic signs are. They’re littered all over the spot in front of my town’s voting building and it’s a bloody eyesore. It can’t be environmentally friendly, and it’s probably worthless as an awareness tool.

      • nugatory says:

        thats exactly where my comment is coming from. I have to drive past the early voting location and there are so many signs its not only ugly, but very distracting. Thats not even including every major intersection that I have passed through in the last month.

  4. nbs2 says:

    I would have the rule apply to cable channels. Beyond that, how exactly is it harder for a competitor’s employee to walk into a station (while on the clock and thus incentivized to make the effort to do so) than it is to surf around a website?

    • Lyn Torden says:

      I say let the other stations see the ad rates. Other forms of competition have visible pricing. I’d even go so far as to require this for all advertising.

  5. Lyn Torden says:

    An alternative idea: Do not allow political advertising at all. Of course, that would just end up with politicians getting angry.

    • Bibliovore says:

      Actually, I’d like to see part of the licensing for broadcast channels to be a requirement to run political ads for free, for all candidates for office in the main area they cover (local candidates for local affiliates, national candidates for national channels). If they’re granted a US license to use those airwaves, they might as well have some civic responsibilty along with it. Maybe, say, N # of ads per candidate per cycle, in a forced rotation so the same candidate isn’t always stuck at 3am or during Saturday-morning cartoons.

  6. StarKillerX says:

    My question is why does any station need to publish these numbers publicly, be it in person at the station or online?

    While I’d agree that campaigns should be required to provide these numbers, I’m just not sure why the stations should have to.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I agree. Maybe it’s because the campaigns could fudge the numbers more easily? Is there any other section of campaign finance that has to be disclosed by a vendor or 3rd party?

    • bhr says:

      They need to publish them so they can’t be biased in pricing. Imagine if clear channel or one of the other major station owners could offer rates for 25% of the price to one party over the other on the public airwaves, without any way to prove it.

  7. crispyduck13 says:

    “alleges that the rules would give competing stations the ability to easily find out each other’s ad rates for political TV spots”

    Except…they already can.

  8. SilverBlade2k says:

    “The suit, filed by the National Association of Broadcasters with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., alleges that the rules would give competing stations the ability to easily find out each other’s ad rates for political TV spots. Additionally, the NAB says it’s unfair that the rule does not apply to cable channels.”

    Um…consumers do this all the time comparing prices online from different stores to find the best price. How is this any different? Oh right.. IT IS NOT.

  9. Stickdude says:

    What about political ads disguised as “news” – like the Newsweek cover I saw last night showing Obama with an angelic look on his face and a halo over his head?

    • KyBash says:

      I’m not sure whether that’s covered by “freedom of the press” (saying anything they want at any time about anybody) or “freedom of religion” (worshiping the ground he slithers over).

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        It’s the same Amendment either way, so you’re really just splitting hairs.

  10. frodolives35 says:

    The key wording as I see it is. “broadcasters who air political ads to post on their websites the rates they charge ” We viewers should be able to see if the rates are equal for all.
    Lets say Fox charges Romney $25 dollars per minute yet charges Obama $50 dollars per minute. Would that not be some type of political contribution. I do not know the campaign finance laws but I can see the FCC’s point in this day and age of the best government money can buy.
    I love the idea of no charge tax deductible equal air time to all candidates at the national level.

    • Auron says:

      But since each network affiliate (TV station) is part of an individual company in it’s own right, we couldn’t force them to do something like that. Because if we did that, we would be curtailing their right to free speech (money). After all, it’s been decided that corporations are people, and since corporations are people, they have the right to pick and choose which speech they support and how much to charge for said free speech.

    • astroworf says:

      It’s been a while, but when I was in broadcasting, stations were required to charge the same to all candidates, the figure being the cheapest rate on the station’s rate card.

    • MarkFL says:

      But even for the same advertiser, not all ad rates are the same.

      If you buy an ad on NYC 22, it will cost a lot less than an ad on Two and a Half Men, even though they are both on the same network at the same time. The difference, of course, is ratings, as well as the fact that one show airs on Saturday night when the overall audience is smaller. Even within the same show there can be differences in the rate depending on where in the show an ad airs.

      Also, if a network has unsold ad space a week out, it will cost a lot less than the same spot would have cost two months earlier. You might also get a discount for buying more air time at once.

      Bottom line, it would be awfully difficult to determine that a lower rate qualifies as a campaign contribution.

  11. maxamus2 says:

    I’m not sure why they even have to disclose what they charge.

    • JJFIII says:

      Hi, I want to buy a car. Wait you do not have to disclose what you charge BEFORE I purchase it? Interesting philosophy on life there moron.

    • Preppy6917 says:

      Because it’s not their airwaves, it’s the public’s airwaves. Broadcasters are merely licensed to them.

  12. Blueskylaw says:

    “The suit, filed by the National Association of Broadcasters with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., alleges that the rules would give competing stations the ability to easily find out each other’s ad rates for political TV spots”

    Why should it matter if others know what you charge? Isn’t this supposed to be supply and demand in play, as in you just charge what you feel you must and not worry what anyone else charges or is there something bigger going on here?

  13. FilthyHarry says:

    Given the past regulation to disclose, I see no reason (no good reason) to oppose this, though I will note, that it just highlights how worthless our news media is, because this issue would be moot if journalists just did their jobs and posted the freely obtainable information online.

  14. MarkFL says:

    Forget about how much money the ad cost, I want to know who is putting up that money. I don’t mean which PAC or SuperPAC or 501(c), I mean who is REALLY paying for it.