Ad Age reports:
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed requiring television stations to post online information about their political advertisers.
That information, currently kept in paper files at the stations, includes the names of candidates or groups requesting to run an ad, the reason for broadcasting the ad, the time and placement of the ad and its cost.
Moving that information online to a website that would be run by the FCC has provoked concern from the National Association of Broadcasters.
This is a classic case. The campaigns already have to report their expenditures to the Federal Election Commission, so the Federal Communications Commission is just a second, redundant layer of bureaucracy. Sometimes having two competing government agencies responsible for the same thing can be a good thing, if it leads to healthy competition. But in this case, it seems like overkill. After all, the time and placement of the ads is publicly available to anyone watching television. It's not like the ads are secret, they are on television. As for the pricing information, conceivably there's some danger of some broadcaster giving a candidate deeply discounted airtime as a way around the campaign contribution limits. But the FCC already requires stations to grant politicians their lowest rates, no more than they charge their "most favored commercial advertisers."
If the information in these paper files is so valuable to the public, some business or non-profit could collect it and put it on a private web site. If it's not valuable information, why does the government require the stations to collect it? The whole thing smacks of a government effort to track political speech in a way that runs counter to First Amendment principles and has little to no redeeming justification in terms of countering corruption. Headline it, "New Government Web Site Is Planned To Track Political Speech."