Who’d have thought that TV broadcasters would be so bent out of shape by a proposal to let Web users see political ad sales information that stations already provide on paper to people who visit a station? But they are, and they’re leaving little to chance as the FCC heads toward an April 27 meeting where commissioners are due to vote on a measure that would require stations to feed their info to an FCC database. NAB chief Gordon Smith met yesterday with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying that stations shouldn’t be required to change. Among his reasons: Broadcasters fear that they’ll lose bargaining leverage with advertisers. If buyers can go online and see how much a station charged for specific political ads, the thinking goes, then they’d know how low a station’s willing to go. Federal law enables candidates to pay the lowest rates a station provides to its most favored commercial advertisers. Smith talked about a possible compromise that would only require stations to feed the FCC info about total charges for political ads — requiring those interested in specific invoices to visit the stations.
Activist group Free Press provided a different perspective in a Wednesday meeting with FCC staffers. Representatives said that putting the data online would benefit the public without creating a burden for stations. The group added that it opposes another potential compromise: just requiring ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC affiliates in the 50 biggest markets to put political ad data online. In several cities that “would exclude a number of large, well-resourced and highly ranked stations” including Chicago’s WGN (a CW affiliate) and Spanish language stations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, and Phoenix. Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group told the FCC last week that Big Four affiliates in the 50 largest markets accounted for 64% of all local TV ads for presidential, Senate, and House races in 2008, 62% in 2010, and 59% so far in the 2012 election cycle.