New Actions to Amend TV Ad Buys and Campaign Finance Disclosure

The Campaign Legal Center urged their membership in a release today to support an amendment to require disclosure of groups buying television advertisements, such as political action committee's. From the release:

The amendment to improve transparency in federal elections was introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).  The underlying bill has drawn criticism that it will impede the FCC’s ability to protect consumers but this amendment would require groups running political ads on TV to disclose their all contributors of more than $10,000 and place a list of these funders in the political files of the broadcast stations running the ads.

The Campaign Legal Center is a Washington, D.C.-based, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which works in the areas of campaign finance and elections, political communication and government ethics. In addition to the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, the Sunlight Foundation, the League of Women Voters, Democracy 21, Public Citizen and Common Cause are all backing Rep. Eshoo's amendment.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 28th at noon ET (6 a.m. HST) Common Cause is holding a webinar entitled, Only People Are People: Amend 2012 for overturning Citizens United.  Common Cause’s national chairman, Robert Reich, will be joined by national director of Amend 2012, Derek Cressman and pollster Joshua Estevan Ulibarri. The webinar will focus on restoring "everyday Americans to our rightful place at the center of our politics."


Renewed Pressure for TV Stations to Share Political Ad Info

Today at the New York Times' Media Decoder Blog, Brian Stelter's post acknowledged a new focus to get TV stations to open up their political advertising information online. Stelter leads,

Local broadcasters, by law, have to disclose the identities of those who buy political advertisements as well as detailed information about the purchases. They print out the data and store it at their offices for the public to see, theoretically. But few members of the public ever get a chance to.

In late October last year, the FCC introduced a proposal to require TV stations to post their public inspection files online for easier access.  Since then, the effort to see these disclosures during the 2012 election cycle has been building. FreePress released Citizens Inundated,  a report on political advertising in January, which we wrote about here. Earlier this week, a Bloomberg editorial called for broadcasters to take political advertising data 'out of the cabinet' and put onto the web.

The [FCC] proposal has been met with predictable wails. Deploying the partisan cliche of the season, Robert McDowell, the sole Republican of the FCC’s three commissioners -- two short of its five-person mandate -- has called it a “jobs destroyer.” On the other hand, Hearst Television Inc.warned that the change from paper to digital could require as many as four new full-time employees per station, costing each station as much as $140,000 per year...Neither claim is credible.

In the ProPublica post by Daniel Victor that Stelter references, is an anecdote suggests that foul play in unreported station income:

Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, found that $70 million in advertising had been unreported from 2000-10 in Michigan.[emphasis ours] He got that number by personally examining public files, at one point driving 14 hours for a 15-minute visit to a station.

Bloomberg's editorial closed with:

Given the shabby state of campaign-finance disclosure, the FCC shouldn’t wait until after November to adopt its sensible idea. For the next election cycle, it should require digital disclosure by large cable and radio stations. The expense is not great. The need is.

Media Council Hawaii agrees. We'll be participating in national efforts to collect data on political advertising money in Hawaii media, including station visits to inspect public files. Stay tuned to the page in the next few weeks to learn how you can become involved in our project.

Media Ownership Comments Submitted by MCH for FCC Quadrennial Review

On Monday, Media Council Hawaii filed QR 2010 Comments with the FCC. The document is cosigned by the Benton FoundationCommon CauseCommunications Workers of AmericaMedia AllianceNational Organization for Women Foundation and the Office of Communications of United Church of Christ, Inc. In the comments we are requesting a number of changes that will help prevent the kind of virtual mergers like we face here with Raycom. A study of shared services agreements by University of Delaware professor, Danilo Yanich, illuminates the number and styles of these agreements nationally.

By May 2010, when MCH and Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed joint comments in the Future of Media proceeding, their research had uncovered sharing arrangements in 42 different markets. A study published in October 2011 by University of Delaware professor Danilo Yanich found that there were as many as 83 television markets with at least one sharing arrangement.

The document also sets forth concerns about media ownership for minorities and women.

Once again, a big mahalo goes to Angela Campbell and the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University for all their help.


SuperPAC Spending Will Inundate Citizens, Warns Tim Karr of FreePress

Tim Karr, Senior Strategy Director at FreePress, published a comprehensive report yesterday on campaign Ad spending entitled Citizens Inundated. In it, Karr features current projections for campaign spending and the over-sized influence this money is having on the Federal Communications Commission and local media outlets, particularly on television. His findings and recommendations are issues that, we at the Media Council feel, are worth sharing and applying here in Hawaii.

From the report,

Broadcast television is our most influential communications medium. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 78 percent of American viewers report getting their news from local TV on a typical day — more than the number that rely on newspapers, radio or the Internet. As such TV has been extremely popular with those seeking to manipulate public opinion.

Projections have estimated close to $3 billion in SuperPac spending for the 2012 election cycle. The Wall Street Journal is tracking the spending here. At the time of this post, it's already at $40,890,383. According to their breakdown, most of the money is in the Republican camp. Locally, GOP candidate and former Hawaii Gov., Linda Lingle's campaign for a Senate seat has collected $1.8 million in just three months. It may have voters curious if the candidates are (like garage rockers, JEFF the brotherhood) asking themselves, "just how much money can we spend?" Most of this money is expected to end up in the media.

It’s no exaggeration to say that election money is all about the media. And the funds are not limited to spending by Super PACs. Campaigns spend, too. For every dollar contributed to support Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential run, his campaign spent nearly 60 cents on media, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Yet for all this money pouring into media outlets, journalism jobs are still being lost by competent reporters, photographers and editors. Where the revenue is ending up, is ultimately an issue of transparency. The designation of the public inspection file has previously held this position to document the political Ad buys for broadcast stations. However as Karr, and Columbia's Steven Waldman have chronicled, the pen-and-ink log is an antiquated model. A recent push to require this information to uploaded online has sparked a backlash from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) - to the confusion of many. Waldman wrote yesterday,

One gets the strong sense that broadcasters are happy to have a “public inspection file” as long as the public is not actually inspecting it. For instance, four TV licensees (in San Diego, Texas, New Mexico, and Illinois) objected to a proposal that the public be notified on air about the existence of the file. “Such announcements may arouse the public’s interest in examining a PIF, but the Licensees do not believe that the Commission should attempt to stimulate such examinations.” Right. We wouldn’t want the public so “aroused” that they would, in their words, play “Sherlock Holmes” rather than engaging station managers in “productive dialogue.”

In the closing of his report, Karr offers four recommendations to readers, of which Media Council Hawaii is taking part:

  • Make Political Ad Spending Information Fully Available Online
  • Expose the Money Behind Front Groups in the Body of the Ads
  • Get Serious about Strategies to Foster Local Political Journalism
  • Strengthen Limits to Consolidated Broadcast Ownership
We encourage you to join us! The blog will be updated with more events like the Feb. 28th panel with NPR's Neal Conan, for you to participate in addressing these four areas.

Hawaii Policy Portal Drafts SOPA/PIPA Online Petition

In addition to national efforts and petitions to block the passage of SOPA and PIPA, The Hawaii Policy Portal is circulating this petition to take action against these bills. "Once we get this to 100 or more signers," said portal co-founder, Kory Panye, "we'll send the list of names and addresses to [Sens. Akaka's and Inouye's] offices."

The Hawaii Public Policy Portal is a web tool that, according to their site,  allows users to "easily create an online form that will allow people to take action on an issue or a bill you are tracking." With today's start of the 2012 legislative session, the web site's mission is "to help allow the sun to shine in on the legislative process, and to make it easier for people to participate."


Keeping Up With #SOPA & #PIPA Commentary

Last night at The Greenhouse, a few dozen of us watched the web's most popular sites blackout in opposition to the legislation which could regulate internet content. Since then, it looks like Twitter has exploded with news, commentary and ways to bother legislators about this issue. Keep an eye on our feed @MediaCouncilHI for good reads and info on SOPA and PIPA. In the meantime here is a short list of good links:

Also: keep your eye on @theHI for news on where Hawaii's elected officials stand on these bills, the FreePress Whiplist for all other states, and read Google's stance if you haven't already.

SOPA Talk at the Greenhouse - Tuesday, Jan. 17th 6 p.m.

We'll be there.

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talk about this important issue on Intellectual Property and the future of the Internet. Click the image for more information about The Greenhouse.      

Shared Services Strike in Ohio

"A Toledo television station is on track to be sold for more than $22 million to a company that has ties to another local station," reported Toledo Blade Business Writer Kris Turner today.

Thomas Henson, owner of Charlotte-based American Spirit Media is, also owns WXTX in Columbus, WSFX in Wilmington, WUPV in Richmond and KYOU in Ottumwa, IA., according to Merrill Knox at MediaBistro.com. Within the Toledo market, Henson "operates at least three other TV stations with Raycom Media, which is the parent company of WTOL-TV, Channel 11," reported Turner. In Hawaii, Raycom Media currently owns CBS (KGMB) and the NBC (KHNL), and operates KFVE under a shared services agreement.

Later in the report, Stephen Lacy, an associate dean of graduate studies within the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University, is quoted. Lacy said the following of television mergers:

"When you go from having two independent newsrooms to one or one and a half, you lose reporters," he said, adding that those losses impact the number and quality of stories told within a community.


The Guardian's Animated SOPA Explanation

Dan Gillmor, Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media at Arizona State University, has a regular column at The Guardian that is well worth reading. Today, his post on "The 'Boycott Sopa' app and the informed consumer-citizen" is accompanied by the fun animation above. As a future-of-news academic, Gillmor has also published Mediactive, which is an excellent resource for citizen media.

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.