If your station, at the request of the NAB, ran any free spots promoting the FM Chip issue or The Performance Rights Act, this story may be of interest to you. Some may perceive this as a back door attempt to revive a little "Fairness Doctrine" debate. It's also a great reminder to keep your public up-to-date just in case anyone calls and asks you to provide anything remotely political. In a letter to the Comptroller General, Congressmen Darrell Issa (pictured) and Mike Quigley are requesting the radio industry be investigated for lobbying expenditures and disclosure practices.
This all has to do with spots radio stations ran to promote the FM chip and the Performance Rights Act. "Presumably these spots were intended to influence legislators to vote or act to benefit the stations airing them," the letter said.
The accusation is that radio may not have met its disclosure obligations concerning "lobbying activities and political advocacy ads." The NAB's Dennis Wharton says the "NAB believes appropriate disclosures were made on these messages. When free and local broadcasting is threatened by bad public policy proposals, we have a First Amendment right and responsibility to educate our millions of listeners and viewers."
The two Congressmen are asking the General Accounting Office to provide a long laundry list of information, that would undoubtedly have to come from radio stations. Here's that list:
- How many spots were aired between 2007 and 2010 intended to influence policy makers concerning the Performance Rights Act (such as the "No Performance Tax" spot), spectrum actions or FM chips in phones?
- What other types of editorials were aired during the same period that were intended to influence legislation that impacted the broadcast stations economic interest, and in what numbers?
- What would the fair market value of these spots be?
- Did broadcasters accept these spots presenting opposing views?
- Did the cost to advertisers presenting these spots vary depending on their point of view?
The two Congressman are awating a delivery schedule "of a credible, objective and responsive report on an expedited basis, so that they may consider whether legislative action is needed."
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