The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to expand a political advertising transparency rule to cover cable and satellite television operators and radio stations. The new rule will put a massive amount of data about political advertising online for the very first time.
Nearly all television and radio operators have been required to maintain a public file on political advertising for years. In 2012, the FCC voted to require broadcast television stations to make these files available through a centralized database operated by the commission. Thursday’s rule will phase in online filing for cable and satellite operators and radio stations over the next two years, with some exemptions available for very small operators.
“This move to an online public file will not only make accessing the file much more convenient for members of the public, it will actually lower long-term costs for industry,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “The public will be able search the file without requiring assistance from station or headquarters staff, reducing the burden of maintaining the public file.”
The FCC adopted this new, expanded transparency rule after being petitioned to do so by online disclosure advocates from the Sunlight Foundation, the Campaign Legal Center and Common Cause.
“We commend the Commission for moving forward on our petition,” Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement. “This new rule drags FCC regulations governing the public file into the 21st Century and ensures that all media outlets covered by the Communications Act will make the information required in the public file more readily available to the public.”