It’s disquieting to see how far broadcasters and their allies are willing to go to kill the recent FCC decision to help voters understand how money’s being spent on TV to influence elections. Yesterday, a House Appropriations subcommittee approved by a voice vote legislation that would prevent the FCC from using any funds to implement an order in April that involves large TV stations: The four largest stations in the top 50 markets would have to put online the information about political ad buys that they already must disclose on paper to people who visit the station. The FCC says it’s a common-sense change that would enhance democracy by making the system more transparent. But Subcommittee Chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) called the order “micromanagement by the FCC,” the National Journal reports. She also questioned why the rule just applies to TV stations instead of political ad buyers, or other media including radio, cable TV, newspapers, direct mail, outdoor advertising and the Internet. The bill approved by the subcommittee goes next to the full Appropriations Committee for approval. Meanwhile the National Association of Broadcasters has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn the FCC rules. One of its concerns is that the change would enable advertisers to bargain for lower prices: They could go online and see how much stations charge political campaigns, which are entitled to the lowest going rate. “It’s clear that the broadcast industry is pulling out all the stops to bury information about political ad spending on the public airwaves,” says Free Press Action Fund senior policy counsel Corie Wright. “What’s more appalling is that some elected officials are willing to help them do it.”
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