February 13, 2018

Luján Urges FCC to Increase Transparency in On-line Campaign Filings

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) this week sent a letter to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging them to enhance transparency in campaign finance by requiring that public information filed by TV stations be done so in a format that is searchable, sortable, and downloadable.

In 2012, the FCC required TV stations to post public file materials online, including important political ad buying information.  However, the FCC did not require that the online data be machine-readable.  Last Congress, Luján has also introduced the FCC Transparency Act to instruct the FCC to undertake a rulemaking to make this information available in a format that is searchable, sortable, and downloadable.  Luján’s legislation was supported by a number of organizations, including Common Cause and Public Citizen. 

Today’s letter represents another effort to reform campaign finance procedures to provide more transparency. In the letter Lujan writes:

“I urge the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to require that its on-line public files be made machine-readable before it takes any action to repeal or otherwise modify the rules that require broadcast stations to file their contracts and related documents with the FCC . . .  The Commission has an obligation to take this chance to advance transparency and the efficiencies of its processes. Before taking steps that could make it harder for Americans to understand how the public’s airwaves are used, the Commission should first make sure information in the on-line public file is kept in a machine-readable format.”

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[full text of the letter is below]

 

January 25, 2018

 

The Honorable Ajit V. Pai

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th St SW

Washington, DC 20554

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

I urge the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to require that its on-line public files be made machine-readable before it takes any action to repeal or otherwise modify the rules that require broadcast stations to file their contracts and related documents with the FCC.

Keeping data in a machine-readable form has been a best practice in the private sector for decades. And when it comes to the federal government, the Obama Administration made keeping data in machine-readable formats a priority in 2013. Yet despite its commitment to transparency in other areas, the FCC still keeps some of its data including the on-line public files, in an ancient and opaque format, virtually inaccessible to the public.

To help bring the FCC into the modern era, I introduced the FCC Transparency Act to ensure the public has access to important information held by the FCC in broadcasters’ online public files. But bringing the Commission up to date should not require Congressional action. You should act now to bring the Commission into the twenty-first century. With the Commission proposing to roll back requirements for broadcasters to file paper documents with the FCC, you have an opportunity to finally upgrade the public file and make it machine readable.

The Commission has an obligation to take this chance to advance transparency and the efficiencies of its processes. Before taking steps that could make it harder for Americans to understand how the public’s airwaves are used, the Commission should first make sure information in the on-line public file is kept in a machine-readable format.

I appreciate your attention to this important matter. Please contact Graham Mason in my office at 202-225-6190 should you have any questions about this request.

Sincerely,

 

Ben Ray Luján

Member of Congress