11 TV Stations Still Fighting Disclosure of Political Ad Details Despite Legal Requirement

Saturday, May 03, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Two campaign finance watchdog groups have filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the refusal of 11 television stations to disclose required information about groups buying political attack ads.


The Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center say the stations are mandated under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 to collect important details that reveal who is behind campaign commercials. Since 2012, stations in the top 50 markets have also been required to make this information available online.


The 11 stations fighting these disclosures are WDIV (NBC) Detroit; KNXV (ABC) Phoenix; WTVJ (NBC) Miami; WMUR (ABC) Manchester/Boston; WFLA (NBC) Tampa; WTVT (FOX) Tampa; WWJ (CBS) Detroit; KMGH (ABC) Denver; WCNC (NBC) Charlotte; KMSP (FOX) Minneapolis; and WTVD (ABC) Durham.


All of the stations are located in states where political groups have already poured money into ads attempting to influence the outcome of Senate and House races being decided this fall.

“These complaints may lift the curtain on why the National Association of Broadcasters has fought so hard against putting the political files online,” Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement.


“In too many cases, the stations and their advertisers failed to comply with the simplest and most basic disclosure requirements. As a result, the public does not have the information it needs to understand who is speaking on the public airwaves and attempting to influence their views on political issues. The information required to be included in the political file allows viewers to assess for themselves the information they are presented with on the air,” she added.


Information not being disclosed about these groups include: Names of their chief executive officer or board of directors; issues of national importance to which ads refer; and names of candidates that the ads are targeting. Groups that failed to be properly identified included those with both conservative and liberal points of view.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

How TV Stations are Letting Political Advertisers Play Hide and Seek (by Kathy Kiely, Sunlight Foundation)

Campaign Legal Center and Sunlight Foundation File FCC Complaints against Broadcasters for Failure to Disclose Information on Political Ads (Sunlight Foundation)

FCC Complaint: TV Stations Fail to Disclose Political Ad Buy Information (by Martha T. Moore, USA Today)

TV Stations Ignore Supreme Court-Approved Law on Political Ad Spending (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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