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PIPAC Opposition to National Association of Broadcasters' Petition for Stay Pending Judicial Review

MM Docket No. 00-168, MM Docket No. 00-44
  • By Media Policy Initiative
July 10, 2012 |

The Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition (“PIPAC”) strongly opposes the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”) petition for stay pending judicial review of the Federal Communications Commission rule requiring that broadcast television stations post the contents of their public inspection files on a website to be maintained by the Commission. NAB has failed to meet any of the criteria necessary for a stay.

First, NAB has failed to show that it is likely to prevail on the merits in court. NAB’s claim that the FCC acted arbitrarily and capriciously will not be successful. Requiring online posting of the rates charged for political ads does not raises serious antitrust concerns because this information has already been publicly available for many years, and no commenter has presented any evidence of anticompetitive harm. If anything, online disclosure will promote competition in the sale of political advertising. Moreover, the Commission considered alternative proposals set forth by broadcasters and provided well-reasoned grounds for rejecting them. NAB’s argument that the Commission’s action is contrary to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (“BCRA”) will also fail because BCRA is silent as to the form by which broadcast stations are to make certain information available to the public.

Second, NAB has failed to demonstrate any harm to its members if the rule goes into effect as scheduled on August 2, 2012. And even assuming that its members will incur some initial expenses to comply with the rule, economic harm is not considered irreparable.

Third, NAB has failed to show that a stay would not substantially harm other interested parties. PIPAC’s members would suffer harm if the rules do not take effect as scheduled because they would have to devote a great deal more of their limited resources to conduct multiple inperson visits to broadcast stations to gather information they otherwise could obtain from a single website.

Finally, NAB has failed to show that a stay would serve the public interest. In fact, a stay would be harmful to the public interest. With the 2012 presidential election fast approaching and huge sums of money being spent to persuade potential voters, it is especially important that the public be able to easily find out who is paying and how much is being paid for the campaign messages they see on television.

Read a PDF of the full document.