At the behest of corporate broadcasters, a single subcommittee vote by House Republicans killed an FCC disclosure guideline and strengthened the role of secret money in American politics.
The new FCC rule would have required broadcasters to post online who is buying advertising for political candidates. Currently, the only way those records can be inspected is by requesting to inspect them in person at each television station. By making the records accessable to all this new rule would have blown the veil of secrecy off the Citizens United based spending, which meant that Republicans had to kill it as soon as possible.
Republicans accomplished their goal by attaching a rider on to the FCC’s budget that prohibited them from spending any funds on disclosure rules.
The intrigue in this story comes from who was behind the effort to kill the new FCC rule. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) was behind the push to kill the new rules. Last month the NAB filed a lawsuit against the FCC claiming that the new rules were, “arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the commission’s statutory authority, inconsistent with the First Amendment, and otherwise not in accordance with the law.”
The FCC argued that, “The public file rules are a common-sense update by the FCC to move from paper to online access to public information in the digital age. The rules are consistent with Congress’s directive to ensure public availability while providing cost-savings for broadcasters."
Surprise!!! The corporate media doesn’t want you to know how much money they are making off of the Citizens United ruling.
Media reform advocates Free Press summed up the situation, "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…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."
House Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) unbelievably argued that, “television station fiscal matters are private and should be kept private.” The Republican position is that even when broadcasters are using public airwaves, the American people have no right to know who is paying for the political ads that they are seeing.
It should be crystal clear now why House and Senate Democrats who are advocating for disclosure can’t get their message on television. Corporate broadcasters are spending millions of dollars to keep the American people in the dark about the impact of Citizens United. With the exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders sneaking in his plea for disclosure, broadcasters limit their discussion of Citizens United to its impact on elections.
However, the sordid story of the demise of the FCC disclosure rule reveals that there is a third player at the table with corporations and Republicans. America’s broadcasters have skin in the game, and if their choice is between an informed public and billions in profit, the broadcasters are going to sell out the American people and stand by their cash.
Image: Death and Taxes