On-the-Road Political File Inspections

Forget Kerouac: Free Press is embarking on a road trip for the ages. Our mission? To help voters make informed decisions at the polls come November.

Back in April, the Federal Communications Commission answered the push from Free Press and other public interest groups and ruled that TV broadcasters must post their political files online. These files reveal who’s behind political ads — and how much they paid for airtime.

But there’s a catch: The FCC ruling applies immediately only to the top media markets. So Free Press staffers Candace Clement, Libby Reinish, Josh Stearns and Chancellar Williams are visiting stations all over the country to inspect the files. We’ll upload the findings and blog about our experiences at each stop along the way, so stay tuned.

Blog Posts

  • Shedding New Light on Dark Money

    July 1, 2014
    Letting the FCC do its job means advancing the public's right to know at a time when political ad spending has run amok. Let the sun shine in.
  • Don't Believe the Spin. Dark Money Won.

    November 20, 2012

    Before Nov. 6 is written into history, we need to challenge assumptions now circulating among Washington’s pundit class.

    First, the Obama victory didn’t signal the demise of big-money politics. It didn’t spell the end of the Super PAC. And the election wasn’t a train wreck for political advertising — even after groups paid billions for spots in support of losing candidates.

  • Spanish-Language TV Ads by the Numbers

    November 7, 2012

    Free Press spent the final months of the campaign season traveling to swing states to visit TV stations that are not currently required to post their political files to the Federal Communications Commission’s new online database.

    When the FCC announced it would require broadcasters to upload data on political ad spending, it exempted all Spanish-language TV stations from posting this information until 2014.

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Press Releases

  • Free Press Report Examines the Absence of Political Ads on Spanish-Language TV

    November 2, 2012
    On Friday, Free Press released Missing Out: Political Ads, Spanish-Language TV and the Latino Vote, a report analyzing political ad spending in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida and New Mexico. Political ad buys have skyrocketed to record-breaking levels nationwide, and much of that money is being spent in swing states, particularly by Super PACs and other third-party groups. But in the three states studied, Free Press found that few political ads have aired on Spanish-language stations.
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  • Missing Out: Political Ads, Spanish-Language TV and the Latino Vote

    The Free Press report Missing Out: Political Ads, Spanish-Language TV and the Latino Vote examines political ad spending in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida and New Mexico.

    November 2, 2012
  • Money, News and Deception in Denver

    Our new report tracks political ad spending in Denver. Since Aug. 1, campaigns, Super PACs and other groups have bought time to air more than 26,000 ads on the city’s four major-network affiliate stations. Many of the ads — if not most of them — contain misleading information. But that hasn’t stopped these stations from continuing to do business with the groups that have purchased ad time — even groups that local newscasters called out for spreading dishonest information. In this report, Free Press focuses on ads from the five Super PACs and outside groups spending the most in Denver. Read the full report here.
    October 1, 2012
  • Left in the Dark: Local Election Coverage in the Age of Big-Money Politics

    With more than $3.3 billion in political ad spending projected by Election Day, Free Press has turned its attention to the local television stations airing these ads. Left in the Dark explores whether stations barraging viewers with political ads are balancing this out with coverage of the role money is playing in this year’s elections. Read the full report here.

    September 24, 2012
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Learn More

  • Public and Political File Inspections

    TV broadcasters use the public airwaves for free in exchange for a commitment to serve and inform their communities. If you want to know what your local broadcasters are doing to meet those obligations, the best place to look is their public files.

    And the political files broadcasters are required to maintain include essential information about who is buying political ads and how much they are paying.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good