CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If it seems like you’re seeing an awful lot of political advertising on television these days, you’re right.
The ads are inescapable, ever present and big money to local TV stations. And starting Thursday the FCC is requiring local TV stations to post their so-called “Public Files” online, including political ad buys spelling out just how much candidates, parties and super PACs are spending on each ad.
The information is particularly interesting in North Carolina as it plays host to the Democratic National Convention and to Charlotte as its former mayor tries to become Governor.
A recent report by Wells Fargo Securities puts the amount of political ad revenue on TV stations in Raleigh and Charlotte at more than major media markets like Boston and San Francisco.
Both Charlotte and Raleigh media markets have topped $7.8 million each, according to the Wells Fargo report.
Some public interest groups say in exchange for all that money, broadcasters should make their public files more easily available by posting them online. In March, the FCC agreed, voting 2-1 along partisan lines to require broadcast television stations to send the records to Washington to be posted on the FCC website.
The National Association of Broadcasts filed suit in US District Court in the District of Columbia to block the rule, arguing among other things that it unfairly targeted television broadcasters while ignoring radio, cable television and internet service providers. Last week the NAB tried to get an emergency stay to stop the rule from taking effect on August 2, and lost.
But the lawsuit goes on.
In voting in favor of the requirement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski read a statement saying, “The question is whether in the 21st century 'available for public inspection' means stuck in office filing cabinets or available online.”
Before today the only way for the public to see the “public files” was to personally visit each television station during business hours, sign in and wait to be escorted to the filing cabinet to flip through manila folders one at a time.
Now anyone can access the records here: https://stations.fcc.gov/find-station/
Once you enter a station by name or channel number, you will have to click on the little red star icon (see image below) to reach the political files, which is not immediately apparent.
Then you have to sort through each file to find the PDF files.
The disclosure is limited to the top 50 media markets and the top four network affiliates (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC) . And the disclosure starts today – so no primary records and no totals.
It’s clunky. But it beats driving from station to station, signing in and waiting in the lobby.