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Crowdsourced Public Information about Broadcasters

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: