The FCC has long required stations to maintain public files to encourage dialogue between stations and local communities and to help the public monitor station performance and compliance with laws and regulations. The political file requires broadcasters to disclose the names of individuals and groups purchasing political ads, the names of the leaders of such groups, and the amount they paid for the ads.
The FCC will require all television stations to put their public files online immediately, though only the major-network stations in the top 50 media markets will be required to put their political files online this year. In 2014, all television stations will have to put their political files online. These files will be made available in a public database hosted on the FCC's website.
Free Press Senior Policy Counsel Corie Wright made the following statement:
“Today’s vote is a win for transparency, open access to information and the public. For over a decade, public interest groups have been asking the FCC to give people unfettered access to the information they already have a legal right to see. Free Press applauds the FCC for bringing the public files online and into the 21st century.
"We're pleased that the FCC has ignored the overheated rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims of the broadcast lobby in this proceeding. These modest measures will place minimal, if any, burden on broadcasters but will offer great public benefits.
“Television broadcasters stand to rake in more than $3 billion in political ads this year. Access to information about the money and special interests behind these ads will enable the public and journalists to track the political advertising flooding the airwaves. Today's vote will also help local communities assess whether broadcasters are using their government-granted monopoly to favor one side or another in electoral races and political debates. And it will give the public information not just about federal races, but state and local contests, ballot initiatives and issue ads.
“We thank Chairman Genachowski for pushing for greater transparency of public information, and we commend Commissioner Clyburn for supporting this item. Free Press would also like to recognize the FCC Media Bureau staff and their efforts to ensure the public will finally have meaningful access to the public files.”