Civil Beat

Problems Implementing Public Files Online

Today, the New York Times reported that the FCC is following it'd due diligence by fining broadcasters without properly kept public inspections files, by delivering justice to the Columbia University radio station seven years late. NYT's Ben Sisario reported "WKCR, the radio station of Columbia University, has been fined $10,000 by the Federal Communications Commission over a lapse in its record-keeping from 1998 to 2005." The Times also sourced David Oxenford, a lawyer familiar with this area. “There are some big station owners who get hit with these fines,” he said, “but by and large,

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the bulk of these are small stations that have small staffs, and this obligation just gets overlooked.” Last Friday, Honolulu's Civil Beat took the public file inspection to task with this report, where the intrepid reporters visited stations and obtained the files. They're 'intrepid' because getting these files isn't always so simple, as some Cleveland-area college students recently found out. While the FCC recently mandated broadcasters in the top 50 markets to make the public files data available online, Honolulu is just outside of the top 50. CB reporters share sympathies with ProPublica's similar effort on the issue called 'Free the Files.' Daniel Victor and Justin Elliot are covering this issue, and have recently noted that formatting problems won't allow the public file data to be easily searchable. It seems like the FCC is headed in the right direction on this, but at the moment they're a just a few steps behind the times.

FreePress Launches 'Who’s Hiding Behind That Ad?'

"If you flip on your local television station and watch for an hour or so, you’re likely to see at least one: a political ad that attacks a candidate for public office. If you live in a 'battleground

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state,' you’ll see as many as 12 political ads an hour," wrote FreePress's Senior Director of Strategy, Tim Karr in an email. "Iowa just experienced this on-air onslaught of misinformation, offering the rest of us a preview of what television viewing will be like across the nation as Election Day 2012 nears. While we may not be able to stop this barrage of ads, Free Press has a plan to expose their funders," he added. Currently, broadcasters are required to upkeep "public inspection files" that contain information about political advertising for public examination. The files should contain names of groups that purchase political advertising time and costs involved. According to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, media companies are expected to see more than $3 billion in revenues in 2012 from political advertising. Yesterday in the Hawaii, Civil Beat ran this editorial , citing recent poll findings "that the state's registered voters believe the wealthy — whether corporations, labor unions or individuals — have an outsized impact on elections and the decisions of members of Congress." To determine how large of an impact private wealth will have on the 2012 elections in Hawaii, examining the public file of the state's broadcasters is a good place to start. Look for a local effort by MCH to hold broadcasters accountable for their public files during this election cycle. Updated: Check out On the Media this week for more discussion on a new FCC proposal to put the public files online. Transcripts for the shows are available at their site Monday.