Transparency advocates file FCC complaints about TV stations’ nondisclosures

The Campaign Legal Center and the Sunlight Foundation filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission, charging 11 television stations failed to disclose required information about political ads they ran this year.

The two groups said in a press release Thursday that without such disclosures, “viewers are denied important information about the organizations and individuals seeking to influence their vote through these ads.”

According to the complaints, the stations failed to disclose in “political files” posted with the FCC such information as the names of candidates referred to in the ads and the names of the ad sponsor’s CEO or directors. The groups said in their release:

The complaints also show that violations occurred without regard to the political leanings of the sponsor, the geographic location, or the station’s network affiliation. Separate complaints were filed 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. Each complaint includes a link to the ad and the relevant portion of the stations’ online political files.

“These complaints may lift the curtain on why the National Association of Broadcasters has fought so hard against putting the political files online,” Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center’s policy director, said in a statement.

“In too many cases, the stations and their advertisers failed to comply with the simplest and most basic disclosure requirements. As a result, 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,” McGehee said.

Asked for comment, the NAB released this statement from Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton:

“NAB takes seriously the political file rules, and will continue working with broadcasters to ensure compliance. We also intend to educate political advertising agencies to enlist support for more accurate information on the disclosure requirements for political ads. Our goal is 100 percent compliance with both the statutory requirements and the FCC rules.”

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