ProPublica investigation shakes loose TV station public inspection files listing local political programmingSubmitted by jrjacobs on Tue, 2012-09-11 20:17.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a rule that says that TV stations must keep a list of political ad buys and make it available on request by the public. However, until recently, stations weren't required to post this data on the Internet, and so the only way to get the records was to physically travel to the station in person.
However, thanks to ProPublica's Free the Files project -- and especially their Free the Files volunteers!! -- this critical issue has been spotlighted and this summer the FCC passed a rule requiring the stations in the nation's top markets to upload the files to the FCC's website https://stations.fcc.gov/.
The system is far from perfect and has a lot of limitations -- eg. there's not a great search! -- but it's a good start.
Rachel Maddow highlighted this issue of transparency in political advertising on a recent show:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) posted a summary of its "digital firsts" over the last few years on its blog yesterday. This short piece gives a sense of the digital shift in government in a very short time. Two thousand tweets, Facebook, Flickr, online datasets, online maps, broadcast inspection files (!), APIs, LinkedIn, blogs, RSS feeds, etc.
- Digital Firsts, by David Robbins, Managing Director, Official FCC Blog (August 15th, 2012).
The New America Foundation's Media Policy Initiative has a fascinating project that asks members of the public for help in collecting FCC-required information from broadcasters and then posts that information on the Web. The Columbia Journalism Review describes the project this way:
In exchange for using the public airwaves for free, broadcast stations are required to serve their local community, a condition the FCC refers to as a station's "public-interest obligations." The standards for what counts towards satisfying these obligations used to be quite considerable, but currently, the chief requirement is that a station maintain a "public inspection file," and make it available to any member of the public that asks. In the file, stations are required to keep information including a political advertising log and a list of the community-serving programming the station has recently aired.
Starting in 2010, in the context of the FCC's Future of Media Inquiry, the New America Foundation's Media Policy Initiative began asking members of the public for help in collecting these public files and posting them on the Internet. Now, with the FCC’s recent proposal to require broadcasters to post the files online -- and with TV stations' adamant opposition to the proposal -- the New America Foundation has reenergized its crowdsourcing campaign.
Read the CJR interview with NAF media policy fellow Tom Glaisyer about the project and check out the online files:
- Q & A: New America Foundation's Tom Glaisyer, By Alysia Santo, Columbia Journalism Review (March 20, 2012).
- Public Interest Obligations, New America Foundation's Media Policy Initiative. (links to the collected files of records of the public interest obligations from stations around the country.)
- Public Interest Obligations: Can you help us collect data for our analysis?, by Tom Glaisyer, New America Foundation's Media Policy Initiative blog (April 20, 2010).
- What Does It Mean to Have a Public Interest Obligation in a Digital Age?, by Tom Glaisyer and Kara Hadge, New America Foundation's Media Policy Initiative blog (February 23, 2010).
The Federal Communications Commission has published its Final Rule on Preserving the Open Internet. Hat tip to Benton's Communications-Related Headlines:
- Preserving the Open Internet. AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission. ACTION: Final rule. 47 CFR Parts 0 and 8 [GN Docket No. 09–191; WC Docket No. 07–52; FCC 10–201] 59192 Federal Register Vol. 76, No. 185/Friday, September 23, 2011, Rules and Regulations.
This Report and Order establishes protections for broadband service to preserve and reinforce Internet freedom and openness. The Commission adopts three basic protections that are grounded in broadly accepted Internet norms, as well as our own prior decisions.
First, transparency: fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of their broadband services.
Second, no blocking: fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful Web sites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services.
Third, no unreasonable discrimination: fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.
These rules are effective November 20, 2011.
Measuring Broadband America presents the results of the first nationwide performance study of residential wireline broadband service in the United States. The study examined service offerings from 13 of the largest wireline broadband providers using automated, direct measurements of broadband performance delivered to the homes of thousands of volunteers during March 2011.
This report highlights the major findings of the study, while the separate Technical Appendix provides a detailed description of the methodology and describes the specific tests that were performed.
The Commission is also making available the results of all tests run in March 2011, as well as the complete raw data set of results from all tests taken during the study period of February to June 2011.
- FiOS dominates as FCC measures actual Internet speeds, By Nate Anderson, ars technica (August 2, 2011).
The data finally gives consumers a standardized way to compare Internet connection quality among ISPs, rather than limiting themselves to advertised speeds and prices. Want to compare lag between ISPs, or between service tiers? Now you can.
...major ISPs generally offer 80-90 percent of their advertised speeds, even during the peak hours of 7pm-11pm, with cable and fiber services actually offering higher-than-advertised speeds for much of the day.
But one ISP stood out, and not in a good way: Cablevision had absolutely atrocious download speeds, dropping to nearly 50 percent of advertised speeds during peak hours.
I have been looking for the new FCC rules on network neutrality at fcc.gov but haven't found them yet. TechDirt reports that you'll have to file a FOIA request to see them.
- Irony: If You Want To Know What The FCC's Rules On Internet Openness Are, You Need To File A FOIA, by Mike Masnick, TechDirt (Dec 21st 2010).
There is a news release on the FCC site, but the site is not very responsive this evening and some pages won't load, including that one.
FCC Backs Net Neutrality Order, By Juliana Gruenwald, National Journal (December 21, 2010, 1:06 PM).
FCC passes first net neutrality rules, By Cecilia Kang, Washington Post (Posted at 1:07 PM ET, 12/21/2010).
The FCC tweet seems to be the only official word at the moment:
"Vote goes 3-2 in favor of the "ayes." Chairman, Comms. Copps and Clyburn in favor; McDowell and Baker against. #oir
Getting Media Right: A Call To Action, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, Columbia University School Of Journalism, New York City (December 2, 2010).
Libraries and Journalism have a lot in common. Copps presents specific recommendations to deal with what he calls the "hour of grave peril" of American Journalism.
The place where I work -- the Federal Communications Commission -- blessed it all, encouraged the consolidation mania, and went beyond even that to eviscerate just about every public interest responsibility that generations of reformers had fought for and won in radio and TV. One FCC Chairman summed up the agency's attitude that there was nothing special about the media by saying, "a television set is nothing but a toaster with pictures." So much for the people's airwaves and for any semblance of concern for the fragile news and information infrastructure that is the lifeblood of society's conversation with itself.
Hat tip to Kevin Taglang!
Scientific American has an excellent editorial that ties together the strands of FCC regulation, the lousy broadband speed we get in the U.S., and Network Neutrality.
- Why Broadband Service in the U.S. Is So Awful And one step that could change it, The Editors, Scientific America (October 4, 2010)
A decade ago the U.S. ranked at or near the top of most studies of broadband price and performance. But that was before the FCC made a terrible mistake. In 2002 it reclassified broadband Internet service as an "information service" rather than a "telecommunications service." In theory, this step implied that broadband was equivalent to a content provider (such as AOL or Yahoo!) and was not a means to communicate, such as a telephone line.
Hat tip to Kevin Taglang!
According to Aliya Sternstein at NextGov there's a proposal in the draft federal broadband plan to create a .gov video archive called video.gov. It'll be similar to the government's data.gov initiative. Wonder when they'll create a documents.gov? Oh yeah, they already have that! It's called the FDLP and it's been around for almost 200 years!!
A proposal in the draft of the government's imminent broadband plan would create a YouTube-like online archive called Video.gov to preserve agencies' Web content and possibly information provided by the media, an official with the Federal Communications Commission said on Monday.
The planned national digital archives for the 21st century would expand upon the government's Data.gov Web site, a warehouse of downloadable federal statistics, and be maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress and other agencies, said Eugene Huang, FCC's director of government performance and civic engagement for the national broadband plan.
[Thanks for the tweet Michael Riedyk at DotGov]