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After Buffalo, Media and Tech Can’t Look Away Any Longer

This tragedy should be a catalyst to a fundamental reckoning.
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WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, a House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee will vote on a misguided measure that would decrease transparency for political ads aired on local television stations. A provision inserted into a draft appropriations bill would strip the Federal Communications Commission of its ability to enforce new rules, adopted in April, that require broadcasters to make their political advertising files available online. Congress already requires stations to maintain these files, but up until now they were available only in paper form.

If signed into law, the draft appropriations bill would deny the FCC funding to provide the public with better access to information about the individuals and groups that purchase these political ads, and the amounts they pay to air them on local stations.

Free Press Action Fund Senior Policy Counsel Corie Wright made the following statement:

"Some members of Congress, working at the behest of the broadcast industry, want to keep the public in the dark. The FCC's online political file rules will shine a brighter light on the political ads that have inundated local airwaves this year.

"Broadcasters spent nearly $14 million on lobbyists in 2011. Now they’re spending millions more on campaign contributions to buy support from some members of Congress — but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the over $3 billion in political ad revenues that television stations stand to pull in this election cycle.

"Voters ought to know who is trying to influence their Election Day choice without having to spend hours in a dusty broadcasting station basement looking through often inaccurate and incomplete files. There is more at stake than the fat profit margins of giant media companies.

"It's clear that the broadcast industry is pulling out all the stops to bury information about political ad spending on the public airwaves. What's more appalling is that some elected officials are willing to help them do it."


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