On Friday, a U.S. federal appeals court denied an emergency motion by the National Association of Broadcasters who tried to block immediate implementation of a new rule that will compel broadcasters to publish political advertising contracts online. The rule was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission to create greater transparency about who is paying for political ads and how much they are paying for their support. The rule was adopted in April keeping in mind the November elections and the need to understand campaign spending. The failure of the motion made by NAB means the rule will come into effect from next week.
NAB holds that its members would become subject to unfair loss of millions of dollars in ad revenue as cable and internet competitors are not subject to the same rules and would not be similarly compelled to disclose details of political advertising.
Dennis Wharton, NAB’s executive vice president of communications said in a statement, “We continue to believe it is fundamentally unfair for local TV stations to be the only medium required to disclose the Internet sensitive advertising rate information.”
According to the new rule, the four biggest TV broadcasters in the top 50 media markets will need to upload files related to political advertising to a database hosted on FTC’s website from 2nd August.
As part of their public interest obligations, TV stations have been publishing their paper records of campaign advertising purchases and other issues since 1938. However, obtaining the files is a time and effort-consuming task, which can be substituted by instant access, if the broadcasters uploaded the data to an internet database. The new FTC rule makes it mandatory to include detailed information on who paid for political ads, the names of key personnel who are buying ads, the timing of the ads and rejections of requests to purchase air time.
The NAB had earlier filed a petition for review in April with the D.C. appeals court accusing the new rules to be arbitrary and violating free speech and other constitutional infringements including FTC going beyond its statutory authority. That challenge is still to be decided on merits.
The present emergency motion to block implementation of the rules was denied by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia because the NBA had failed to meet “the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.”