Republicans seek to block new FCC rule

Vote in House panel to nix funding on political ad spending reg

House Republicans are taking aim at a new FCC rule that requires TV stations to post information about political ad spending online.

A House Appropriations subcommittee, voting on funding for the FCC’s annual budget, included a provision that would prevent the commission from spending anything on the political ad rule’s implementation.

The information is already publicly available, but usually only by actually visiting a station in person and requesting the file. A measure passed by the FCC in April would require that broadcasters make information about campaigns’ TV buys and rates available in a central database. The rule is expected to go into effect later this year, perhaps in time for the fall campaign, although only affiliates of the four major networks in the 50 major markets will be initially required to comply, with all other stations given until 2014.

Appropriations subcommittee chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) offered the amendment, arguing that it was too costly for TV stations.

Democrats on the subcommittee opposed the provision, arguing that it was a way to shield GOP groups from having to make the names of their donors more readily accessible to the public.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) accused Republicans of being against transparency. “It looks like you’re trying to cover up the fact that all these fat cats are coming in and putting all this money into these elections and they don’t want their names disclosed,” he said.

Broadcasters, which opposed the FCC’s move, filed suit last month in a federal appellate court seeking to block its implementation. The NAB said the FCC’s action was “arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the Commission statutory authority, inconsistent with the First Amendment and otherwise not in accordance with law.”

When the rule was passed, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said that the commission was well within in its bounds to make the change given previous congressional action.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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