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Make the FCC Online Disclosures of Political Ad Buys ‘Searchable, Sortable and Downloadable’

Dec. 3, 2015

Make the FCC Online Disclosures of Political Ad Buys ‘Searchable, Sortable and Downloadable’

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Public Citizen wholeheartedly supports U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan’s (D-N.M.) FCC Transparency Act, a simple and straightforward measure requiring broadcast stations to present their online disclosures of political ad buys in an easily navigated format that is searchable, sortable and downloadable.

In 2012, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required television stations to post online information about who sponsors political ads and how much they pay for those ads. This may soon be extended to radio and other broadcast stations. However, the FCC did not make these online disclosures easily searchable and sortable for the public. Many stations post non-searchable PDF documents.

In this day and age, there is no excuse for failing to employ the full transparency powers of the Internet, making digital information and data easily searchable by the name of a sponsor or sorted by the amount of an expenditure. Federal and state Internet disclosure programs today widely employ this state-of-the-art standard of making online information machine-readable – in other words, searchable, sortable and downloadable.

Lujan’s proposed legislation simply requires that the FCC disclosure rule conform to today’s digital standards of full transparency. This legislation should win the support of every member of Congress who believes in removing barriers to online access to public information.