TV Stations Must Now Post Online Political Ad Contracts

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

An important new development in support of campaign transparency will now provide the media, watchdogs and ordinary Americans with a wider view into which groups are behind the attack ads appearing on television stations across the country.


As of July 1, every broadcast TV station in the U.S. must post copies of contracts for commercial time purchased to air campaign spots, both positive and negative ones.


The requirement, ordered by the Federal Communications Commissionm (FCC), means voters “will have easy access to documents detailing who is buying campaign commercials and how much money they are spending,” the Sunlight Foundation reported.


Sunlight is assisting voters with that access through its creation of the Political Ad Sleuth, an online tool that allows the ad contracts to be searched by such criteria as advertiser, state and date.


More than 2,000 stations will be impacted by the FCC order, which follows a pilot project that was launched by the agency two years ago which involved only 230 TV outlets.


The posting of TV buys comes at an important time, what with $40 million already being spent on ads seeking to influence races happening this November.


“Having the political ad files online is important,” the Sunlight’s Kathy Kiely wrote. “In some cases they provide the only public information available on groups that are thinly disguised as nonprofit ‘social welfare’ organizations but are, in fact, major campaign players. Their tax status, plus the way they word and time their political advertising, exempts them from having to disclose their spending or their backers to the FEC, the agency created after the Watergate scandal to make campaign spending accountable.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

New FCC Online Political Ad Disclosure Rule Exposes Dark Money TV Buys (by Kathy Kiely, Sunlight Foundation)

Dark Money in North Carolina's Hagan-Tillis Senate Race: 4,086 ad Spots at WBTV (by Jacob Fenton, Sunlight Foundation)

11 TV Stations Still Fighting Disclosure of Political Ad Details Despite Legal Requirement (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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