Political Ad Database Is Finally Online, but Crippled by Lack of Features

Sunday, August 05, 2012
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally launched its online database that’s supposed to provide information on who’s spending what on television commercials related to election campaigns.
But the database is not user-friendly for anyone trying to get to the meat of current campaign spending. For instance, a visitor to the Web site can search by television station name, network affiliation, or channel number—but not by the name of a candidate or Super PAC trying to influence an election.
An FCC official told ProPublica that there are “plans” to improve the search function, “but the scope is yet undetermined.”
Another flaw with the database lies with the FCC’s decision to not require broadcasters to upload files in a single format. Without this requirement, it will be difficult to compile the data on television ad buys and analyze them in volume.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
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