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FCC: Local TV Affiliates to Post Political Buys

New ruling means Austin stations to put campaign data online
Richard Whittaker, 4:11pm, Fri. Apr. 27, 2012
New FCC rules mean Austin's big (English-speaking) four will be putting political ad data online
There will be a little more transparency in campaign spending, after the Federal Communications Commission issued new rules this morning that will make Austin's local TV affiliates place details of their political advertising sales online.

In a statement released today, the FCC announced that broadcast stations will have to put what are called "political files" – the details of spending by political parties on campaign ads, including how much they spend and, fascinatingly, what ads were rejected.

The information is not new: In fact, stations have been obligated to keep these records and make them public since 1965. However, the stations were only required to keep paper copies at their offices. The new ruling says that the data has to be placed online, in a central database run by the commission.

However, cool your jets, data miners. The initial ruling only covers the big four networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) and only in the 50 biggest media markets. Good news for Austin campaign watchers, as the local market comes in at number 49 on that list. That means ABC's KVUE, CBS' KEYE, NBC's KXAN and Fox 7 will have to submit their files (plus their sibling stations in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio), but everyone else has another two years to comply.

There are already a lot of eyebrows being raised about why other major players are left off the list. For example, why no Univision when it plays such a pivotal role in Spanish-language broadcasting? And what about WGN, which regularly places third or fourth in the Chicago market?

And those same data miners may have even more reason to be frustrated: As Pro Publica notes, there is no requirement to send the files in a common or searchable format.

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