Two years ago TV broadcasters kicked up a fuss when the FCC made a simple decision: It ordered them to put online info about the political ads that they air — info they already were required to make available on paper to anyone who visits the station. Broadcasters lost that fight. But it seems that many, possibly most, simply refused to comply with the rules according to complaints against 11 stations filed at the FCC today by two public interest groups: The Campaign Legal Center and the Sunlight Foundation. They say that broadcasters they checked failed to identify on an FCC site what candidate was being referred to in political ads, the issue the ads addressed, and who sponsored the ads. The lapses mean “the public does not have the information it needs to understand who is speaking on the public airwaves and attempting to influence their views on political issues,” says Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee. Sunlight Foundation Managing Editor Kathy Kiely says the public filings “are often the only way we can track political activities and spending by dark money groups that aren’t required to disclose those activities with the Federal Election Commission.” They filed complaints against WDIV (NBC/Detroit), KNXV (ABC/Phoenix), WTVJ (NBC/Miami), WMUR (ABC/Manchester-Boston), WFLA (NBC/Tampa), WTVT (Fox/Tampa), WWJ (CBS/Detroit), KMGH (ABC/Denver), WCNC (NBC/Charlotte), KMSP (Fox/Minneapolis), and WTVD (ABC/Durham). The FCC’s order initially applied to large stations, but all will have to comply beginning in July.
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