And It’s Live: The FCC Political Ad Rules Go Into Effect
A Federal Communications Commission order to make information on political ad buys more accessible online is bringing new transparency to an election cycle that is unique in recent history for its opacity and high spending.
Beginning on Thursday, broadcast stations owned by or affiliated with ABC, NBC, CBS, or Fox in the top 50 markets will begin the process of putting their public files online, in compliance with a Federal Communications Commission order issued in April. The public files consist of mundane materials like ownership and licensing information, but also a station’s political file, which contains current information about political advertising buys.
Stations are charged with uploading information on political advertising deals to the FCC website on the same day that they come in, beginning on August 2. The documentation shows the duration of the ad buy, the number of spots per week, the length of each spot, the requested time slot, and the ad rate charged.
For political junkies, campaign watchdogs, equity analysts looking at media investments, and especially buyers of political advertising time, the new disclosures will offer a look at campaign spending, ad buys by independent groups, and the bounty reaped by the stations themselves in the scrum of electioneering.
Under the new system, advertising deals concluded on August 2 or after in the network affiliates in the 50 largest markets will appear online as PDF documents. The disclosures cover campaign spending and independent expenditures.