[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 131 (Tuesday, July 9, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 41014-41016]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-16487]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 73

[MB Docket No. 00-168; DA 13-1440]


Online Political File and Petition for Reconsideration

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Notice; solicitation of comments.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Communications Commission solicits public comment 
on the impact of the rules requiring broadcast television stations to 
post their political files online, and on a Petition for 
Reconsideration filed by the Television Station Group.

DATES: Comments may be filed on or before August 26, 2013, and reply 
comments may be filed on or before September 23, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by MB Docket No. 00-168, 
by any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Federal Communications Commission's Web site: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/. Follow the instructions for submitting 
comments.
     Mail: Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, 
by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. 
Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's 
Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
     People with Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request 
reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language 
interpreters, CART, etc.) by email: FCC504@fcc.gov or phone: (202) 418-
0530 or TTY: (202) 418-0432.

For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional 
information on the rulemaking process, see the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Matthews, Kim.Matthews@fcc.gov, of 
the Policy Division, Media Bureau, (202) 418-2120.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Public 
Notice in MB Docket No. 00-168, DA 13-1440, released on June 25, 2013. 
The full text of this document is available for public inspection and 
copying during regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, 
Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-A257, 
Washington, DC 20554. This document will also be available via ECFS at 
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/. Documents will be available 
electronically in ASCII, Microsoft Word, and/or Adobe Acrobat. The 
complete text may be purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, 
445 12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554. Alternative 
formats are available for people with disabilities (Braille, large 
print, electronic files, audio format), by sending an email to 
fcc504@fcc.gov or calling the Commission's Consumer and Governmental 
Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY).

Summary

    1. In the Public Notice, the Media Bureau seeks comment on the 
impact of the rules adopted by the Commission in the Second Report and 
Order in MM Docket Nos. 00-168 and 00-44,\1\ requiring broadcast 
television stations to post their political files online. We seek 
comment also on the Petition for Reconsideration of the Second Report 
and Order filed by the Television Station Group.\2\
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    \1\ Standardized and Enhanced Disclosure Requirements for 
Television Broadcast Licensee Public Interest Obligations, Extension 
of the Filing Requirement for Children's Television Programming 
Report, Second Report and Order, 27 FCC Rcd 4535 (2012) (``Second 
Report and Order''). The effective date of the new online public 
file requirements was August 2, 2012.
    \2\ See Petition for Reconsideration, Television Station Group, 
MM Docket Nos. 00-168 and 00-44 (June 11, 2012) (``Petition for 
Reconsideration'').
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    2. Background. In the Second Report and Order, the Commission 
required stations to post their public files online in a Commission-
hosted database rather than maintaining the files locally at their main 
studios. With respect to political file documents that must be 
maintained in the public file, the Commission required stations that 
are affiliated with the top four national networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and 
Fox) and that are licensed to serve communities in the top 50 
Designated Market Areas (``DMAs'') to post these documents online as 
part of the online public file, but exempted all other stations from 
posting their political file documents to their online public file 
until July 1, 2014.\3\ The Commission stated that, by July 1, 2013, the 
Media Bureau would issue a Public Notice seeking comment on the impact 
of this online posting requirement for the political file so that the 
Commission can consider whether any changes should be made to the 
requirement before it takes effect for other stations.\4\ The Media 
Bureau is issuing this Public Notice consistent with the Commission's 
commitment in the Second Report and Order.
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    \3\ Id. at 4536-7, paragraph 3.
    \4\ Id.
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    3. The online public file requirement adopted in the Second Report 
and Order replaced the decades-old requirement that commercial and 
noncommercial television stations maintain public files at their main 
studios with a requirement to post most of the documents in those files 
to a central, online public file hosted by the Commission. The 
Commission's goals were to modernize the procedures television 
broadcasters use to inform the public about how they are serving their 
communities, make information concerning broadcast service more 
accessible to the public, and reduce broadcasters' cost of compliance. 
The political file component of the public inspection file provides 
information about requests by political candidates and other political 
advertisers to purchase television advertising time, including the 
station's disposition of each request and the rate charged for the 
broadcast time.
    4. Stations were required to upload new public file documents to 
the online database starting August 2, 2012.\5\ Stations were given six 
months from this date to upload documents that were already in their 
public inspection file.\6\

[[Page 41015]]

However, the Commission did not require stations to upload their 
existing political files to the online database; \7\ rather, stations 
were required only to upload new political file content on a going-
forward basis.\8\ In addition, to better ensure that the Commission can 
accommodate television broadcasters' online filings and to confine any 
unforeseen start-up difficulties to those stations that are best able 
to address them, the Commission phased in the new political file 
posting requirement by, as noted above, limiting it for the first two 
years, until July 1, 2014, to affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox 
networks in the top-50 markets.\9\
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    \5\ The National Association of Broadcasters (``NAB'') filed a 
petition for review of the Second Report and Order with the U.S. 
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Nat'l Assoc. 
of Broadcasters v. FCC, No. 12-1225 (D.C. Cir. May 21, 2012). NAB 
sought an emergency stay of the Second Report and Order from the FCC 
and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; both requests were denied. 
Standardized and Enhanced Disclosure Requirements for Television 
Broadcast Licensee Public Interest Obligations, 27 FCC Rcd 7683 
(2012); Order, Nat'l Assoc. of Broadcasters v. FCC, No. 12-1225 
(D.C. Cir. July 27, 2012). On January 18, 2013, NAB filed an 
unopposed motion to hold further proceedings in the case before the 
D.C. Circuit in abeyance pending (1) FCC action on the petition for 
reconsideration filed by the Television Station Group and (2) the 
Commission's opening of a notice and comment period concerning these 
rules, prior to July 1, 2013, to consider whether changes to the 
requirements are warranted. On February 12, 2013, the court granted 
NAB's motion to hold proceedings in abeyance. Order, Nat'l Assoc. of 
Broadcasters v. FCC, No. 12-1225 (D.C. Cir. February 12, 2013).
    \6\ The six-month deadline expired February 4, 2013. See Public 
Notice, Television Broadcast Stations Reminded of the Upcoming 
Public Inspection File Deadline, DA 13-120, rel. January 30, 2013.
    \7\ These documents must continue to be maintained at the 
station, however, until the end of the two-year retention period.
    \8\ Second Report and Order, 27 FCC Rcd at 4536, paragraph 2 and 
at 4551, paragraph 33.
    \9\ Id. at 4536-7, paragraph 3.
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    5. To date, over 361,000 documents have been uploaded into the 
online public file, including over 66,000 documents in political files. 
During the month leading up to the November 6, 2012 general election, 
stations uploaded nearly 27,000 documents to political files, peaking 
at 1582 documents uploaded on November 5. In addition, the public file 
has attracted over 2.5 million pageviews on 500,000 unique visits to 
the site. The busiest day was September 11, 2012, on which the site 
attracted 5,296 visits.
    6. Online Political File. We hereby request comment on how moving 
online the political file has impacted the approximately 240 stations 
that are currently subject to this requirement. We seek comment 
generally on the experience of this initial group of stations in 
posting their political files online as well as the public's experience 
in accessing this information. Have stations encountered particular 
obstacles in connection with posting documents to the online political 
file? Has online posting become easier over time as station personnel 
have become more familiar with the process and as the Commission has 
made improvements to its online database? \10\ Are there other steps 
the Commission could take to make its online database more user-
friendly? We also ask members of the public, including political 
candidates and their representatives, who review the online political 
file to comment on whether they have found it easy to access 
information in the file, whether there are other improvements that we 
could make to the database to facilitate access and review of this 
material, and whether the ability to view the political file online has 
been beneficial.
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    \10\ In October 2012, the Commission announced the availability 
of a new, pre-generated ``Terms and Disclosures'' folder in the 
online database where stations can upload explanations for any 
terms, abbreviations or other language necessary for a full 
understanding of any documents posted to the online political file. 
The Commission also announced it was continuing work on other 
improvements to the online public file including a public search 
feature, RSS feeds for easy identification of new documents filed, 
and a feature permitting broadcaster access to the interface through 
Dropbox. See Public Notice, New Features in Online Public Inspection 
File System Announced, DA 12-1578, rel. October 3, 2012.
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    7. In addition, we seek comment on the ability of stations that are 
currently exempt from the political posting requirement to comply with 
the July 1, 2014 deadline. Are there changes we should make to our 
rules or our database to facilitate compliance for stations that will 
be subject to the online political file requirements for the first time 
next year? We note that more than 200 television stations that are not 
currently subject to the online political file requirement have posted 
at least one document into the online political file. We invite these 
stations to provide us with information about their experiences in 
uploading political file documents to the Commission's database.
    8. Petition for Reconsideration. Finally, we also seek comment on 
the Petition for Reconsideration of the Second Report and Order filed 
on June 11, 2012 by the Television Station Group, a group of large 
television station owners. The petition requests that the Commission 
reconsider the online political file requirement in the Second Report 
and Order on the ground that it is not in the public interest for 
stations to disclose online specific, spot-by-spot information about 
the rates charged for advertisements placed by candidates or those 
placed by other parties that concern candidates.\11\ Although the 
Commission's rules formerly required that this information be made 
publicly available in hard-copy in the station's local political files, 
the petition argues that disclosure online of this sensitive pricing 
information is anti-competitive, disrupts markets, and is not 
contemplated by current campaign finance disclosure statutes.\12\ As an 
alternative, the petition proposes, among other things, that the 
Commission require television stations to continue to make this 
specific rate information available in hard-copy in their local 
political files and, in addition, that the Commission permit stations, 
on an opt-in basis, to post to the Commission's database the aggregate 
amount of money spent by a sponsor of political advertisements on the 
station in lieu of posting specific rate information online.\13\
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    \11\ See Petition for Reconsideration at 1-2, 5.
    \12\ Id. at 2.
    \13\ Id. at 5.
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    9. The Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition (``PIPAC'') 
opposes the petition on the ground that allowing stations to post only 
aggregate data regarding political ads would be contrary to the 
Commission's efforts to modernize its reporting systems and to promote 
transparency and data-driven policymaking.\14\ PIPAC also argues that 
the Television Station Group proposal would make it more difficult for 
the public to obtain specific information in the political file as 
paper files are costly and time consuming to view.\15\ Finally, PIPAC 
also argues that aggregated information is insufficient to enable the 
public to ascertain whether stations are meeting their statutory 
obligations with respect to lowest unit rate, equal opportunities, and 
public disclosure of the sources of political ads.\16\
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    \14\ See Ex Parte Communication, MM Docket No. 00-168, (February 
11, 2013), at 1-2.
    \15\ Id. at 2.
    \16\ Id.
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    10. We seek comment on the issues raised by the petition and 
opposition. Would the voluntary nature of the proposal affect the 
usefulness of the data collected? In addition, we invite comment on 
whether there are other mechanisms that the Commission should consider 
to improve consumer access to relevant data regarding political ads.
    11. Permit-but-Disclose. This proceeding, including both the online 
political file inquiry and the Petition for Reconsideration, will be 
treated as a ``permit-but-disclose'' proceeding in accordance with the 
Commission's ex parte rules.\17\ Persons making ex parte presentations 
must file a copy of any written presentation or memorandum summarizing 
any oral presentation within two business days after the presentation 
(unless a different unless a different deadline applicable to the 
Sunshine period applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations 
are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1) list 
all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at 
which the ex parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data 
presented and arguments made during the presentation. If the 
presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data 
or arguments already reflected in the presenter's

[[Page 41016]]

written comments, memoranda or other filings in the proceeding, the 
presenter may provide citations to such data or arguments in his or her 
prior comments, memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant 
page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or arguments can be 
found) in lieu of summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown 
or given to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed to be 
written ex parte presentations and must be filed consistent with rule 
Sec.  1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by rule Sec.  1.49(f) or for 
which the Commission has made available a method of electronic filing, 
written ex parte presentations and memoranda summarizing oral ex parte 
presentations, and all attachments thereto, must be filed through the 
electronic comment filing system available for that proceeding, and 
must be filed in their native format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, 
searchable, .pdf). Participants in this proceeding should familiarize 
themselves with the Commission's ex parte rules.
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    \17\ See 47 CFR 1.1200 et seq.
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    12. Comments and Replies. Interested parties may file comments and 
reply comments on or before the dates indicated on the first page of 
this document. Comments and Reply Comments may be filed using the 
Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (``ECFS'').\18\
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    \18\ See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking 
Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (1998).
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     Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically 
using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.
     Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must 
file an original and one copy of each filing. If more than one docket 
or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers 
must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or 
rulemaking number.
    Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial 
overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service 
mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's Secretary, 
Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
    [cir] All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for 
the Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 
12th Street SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours 
are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries must be held together 
with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be 
disposed of before entering the building.
    [cir] Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton 
Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
    [cir] U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail 
must be addressed to 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554.
    13. Availability of Documents. Comments, reply comments, and ex 
parte submissions will be available for public inspection during 
regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, Federal 
Communications Commission, 445 12th Street SW., CY-A257, Washington, DC 
20554. These documents will also be available via ECFS. Documents will 
be available electronically in ASCII, Microsoft Word, and/or Adobe 
Acrobat.
    14. People with Disabilities. To request materials in accessible 
formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic 
files, audio format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the FCC's 
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), 
(202) 418-0432 (TTY).
    15. Additional Information. For additional information on this 
proceeding, contact Kim Matthews, Kim.Matthews@fcc.gov, of the Media 
Bureau, Policy Division, (202) 418-2154. Press contact: Janice Wise 
(202-418-8165; Janice.Wise@fcc.gov).

Federal Communications Commission.
William T. Lake,
Chief, Media Bureau.
[FR Doc. 2013-16487 Filed 7-8-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P