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Broadcasters Offer Alternative to Political Ad Disclosure Rule

Petitions FCC to reconsider regs passed in April
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Still reeling from the Federal Communications Commission's new rule that would require TV stations to move political ad rate data online, a group of a dozen TV station groups Monday filed a petition for reconsideration of the rule.

The broadcasters' petition offers what they hope will be a tasty alternative to the FCC's rule requiring online disclosure of individual ad rates for national candidates' or issues ads. The information is currently available in paper files at the local TV stations.

Broadcasters filing the petition include the nation's largest non-network owned TV groups: Barrington Broadcasting Co., Belo Corp., Cox Media Group, Dispatch Broadcast Group, the E.W. Scripps Company, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television, LIN TV, Meredith Broadcasting, Post-Newsweek Stations, Raycom Media, and Schurz Communications.

Instead of putting online individual spot rate data, which they argue would "disrupt" the ad market, broadcasters propose to go beyond the FCC's original ruling (and the current requirements of the political file), and post aggregate spending for all political spending, including local and state races and ballot issues. The proposal is similar to one the FCC rejected prior to passing its rule.

"The alternative proposal.... would provide a robust online data set concerning the political file, including more information about more kinds of political advertising than is required to be placed in the political file today or placed online under the .... order," wrote the petitioners.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which filed in federal appeals court over the rule, called the broadcasters' petition "extremely creative."

A GOP-led House Appropriations subcommittee has also come out against the rule, voting in favor of language in a budget bill that would prevent the FCC from implementing the new rule.

If all goes according to plan, the FCC's rule, now being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, could go into effect in time for the 2012 election.