This Bloomberg report on disclosure efforts at local television stations is rather odd and something worth keeping an eye until it either a) flames out as ridiculous, b) is recognized for what it is, which is to say that it possibly carries an agenda that has little to do with open government, or c) is made reality.
CBS and News Corp.’s Fox are among broadcasters fighting a plan to post names of campaign-ad buyers and purchase prices on the Web as record election spending raises concerns over anonymous political contributions.
The information is maintained in desk drawers and filing cabinets at television stations, and the Federal Communications Commission wants to bring the data to a Web site the agency would run.
What’s suspicious here is that cable companies are not being asked to start digging through their filing cabinets to provide invoices on every political ad they’ve aired. It seems a rather uncomfortable coincidence that, according to the Bloomberg report, …about three-fourths of campaign funds go to ads and most is spent on local TV stations, Ken Goldstein, president of New York-based Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, said in an interview. Campaign spending on local TV stations may climb to about $3 billion this year, up from $2.3 billion in 2008, Goldstein said.
Having an open government is a fine goal but this seems to be poking around in private companies’ filing cabinets to, as Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Robert McDowell notes, “put the government’s thumb on the scale during advertising negotiations.”
And, a word of advice to Campaign Legal Center: when your representative starts talking about business practices which have been around for who knows how long as concerted efforts to prevent disclosure of this information to some nefarious end, you start to look a little silly and people might begin to question which tank you’re swimming in:
“This notion of someone walking in and looking at pieces of paper — in the 21st century — it’s ridiculous on its face and it merely is meant to obfuscate,’’ Meredith McGehee, the Campaign Legal Center’s policy director, said in an interview.