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NAB Comments on Electronic Public Files for Radio
In response to a petition for rule making filed on July 31st, 2014 by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation, the NAB today filed comments in support of the fact that all video providers (including cable and DBS) should be required to post their public and political files online, but suggested that due to the "sizable and diverse nature of the radio industry there are some implementation challenges that will require careful consideration and perhaps phased implementation."
The NAB goes on to discuss the reasoning behind this, referencing its earlier comments from 2011 when the FCC proposed to require TV stations to post their public files online.
According to the NAB, "there could be potentially very real marketplace distortions if competitively sensitive information is available online for one group of participants in the advertising market (e.g., local broadcast TV stations), and not others (e.g., cable and satellite providers)." citing the increase in political advertising spending on local cable coinciding with the online public file requirement for TV, although not directly attributing a link between the two.
The NAB sees "no rational basis for requiring all television broadcasters, but not their competitors in the video marketplace, to disclose online public and political file materials, including sensitive advertising rate information." In addition, the NAB agrees with the Petitioners that "extending the online public/political file requirements to cable and satellite systems would be fairly simple because the database already has been created."
With regard to broadcast radio station public and political files, the NAB comments that there are "significantly more logistical and practical issues to be addressed." They suggest that these issues "be fully vetted in any future Notice of Proposed Rulemaking."
Specifically, the NAB cites the large number of radio stations (15,425 as of June 30, 2014) in comparison to television stations, and is concerned about bandwidth issues if so many stations were to upload their files near the same deadline dates (such as the 10th of the month in January, April, July and October in the case of quarterly issues and program reports).
Also cited in the NAB's comments are the radically different levels of staffing at these broadcast radio stations including "number of employees; whether a station has automated its advertising traffic services; whether it has in-house computing resources; whether the station has in-house broadband capacity; and, importantly, whether the station facility is located in an area that even has Internet access."
Finally, the NAB references the adoption of the 2012 Online Public File Order where the Commission "delayed the requirement for the uploading of the online political file for smaller TV stations, noting that it was 'appropriate to require stations with a greater market reach to undertake this time-sensitive transition first, as they will be more likely to have dedicated resources to address any implementation issues that arise, if necessary.'"
The NAB concludes by asking that the Commission consider these practical issues facing radio broadcasters in any future rule making and states that "Broadcasters fully support the Commission moving toward regulatory parity among video programmers in their online public and political file requirements."
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