Who's Buying Your Election? New FCC Ruling Requires Broadcasters to Post Data On Ad Purchases
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But the significance of this is, this political ad information, it shows you who’s buying ads, how much they’re paying, when they’re running, whether or not the stations accepted ad buys from different campaigns. It’s been public for years, but it’s been stuck on paper files at stations. You literally have to go look at it, pay to make copies if you want copies. So now it’s going to be going online. This election, it will only be in the top 50 markets, and then other stations will have two years to come into compliance. So it’s pretty significant.
AMY GOODMAN: And what’s the information that’s going to come out?
JUSTIN ELLIOTT: Well, the information, I mean, it gets on a really granular level of which campaigns and super PACs and other outside groups are buying ads. It also shows you whether the stations are accepting ads from different groups or rejecting them. The reason that’s important is that stations legally have to give equal opportunity to different candidates to buy ads. They can’t show favoritism in who they sell ad time to. They also legally have to give campaigns the lowest rates on advertising. That’s a measure to keep the cost of political campaigns down. So this should also shed light on whether or not they’re fulfilling those obligations.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Because it will actually show the rates that they’re charging?
JUSTIN ELLIOTT: Yeah, it shows, on an ad-by-ad level, you know, whether, say, the Obama campaign bought an ad during Judge Judy, how much they paid for it. These files are updated immediately. So, I mean, we hear a lot about how much money the campaigns are raising, who’s giving them money. This is really where the majority of the money is going, towards campaign advertising, which right now is kind of in the dark.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But now this will only affect the broadcast networks, not cable television at all, right?
JUSTIN ELLIOTT: Right, this is only for the broadcast networks, though that is where the majority of ad dollars are spent on—for campaigns.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert McChesney, you’ve been writing about this for a long time, about media and money. Give us examples of how the landscape has changed dramatically and what you expect this year. I think Justin said something like $3.2 billion expected to be spent. You’re talking about $5 billion.
ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, no one knows the numbers, and as Justin pointed out, we’re now going to have a chance to get a better sense of what the actual numbers are, since so much of this money is being spent by loosely regulated super PACs as a result of Citizens United.
I think that the crucial point is—that comes out of this extraordinary victory, and it is a great victory—is that the commercial broadcasters in this country, which get their broadcast licenses for free, monopoly licenses to serve the public, opposed getting this—making this information accessible to people, because it sort of showed the dirty game that’s developed in this country. Twenty years ago, the average commercial television station got 2 or 3 percent of its revenues from candidate ads and actually had local news coverage on their station. Today, depending on the state you’re in, it looks like the average commercial television station, these 50 big market network stations, will have anywhere from 15 to as much as 30 percent of their revenues just from political candidate ads, and they’re doing far less coverage of politics whatsoever. So we’re getting inundated with inane advertising, and we’re having very little journalism. What little journalism we do get tends to be just monitoring the ads and sort of cheering them on.