FCC Quickly Responds to Political Ad Disclosure Petition, Could Open Data by 2016 Elections

Nearly by definition, bureaucracy operates at a snail's pace. From red tape to hurdles, the English language is filled with idioms and clichés to describe the agonizing effort it takes to see actual change at a bureaucratic level. And when it comes to the necessity of transparency in the private and public sphere of operations, that snail's pace can result in a stand-still.

All of this makes last month's announcement by the FCC all the more impressive:

Moving with unusual speed, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday served notice that may require cable and satellite TV providers, as well as radio stations, to post political ad contracts online.

The FCC's request for public comments comes one week after the Sunlight Foundation, the Campaign Legal Center and Common Cause, represented by the Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Legal Representation, asked the agency to expand its database of political ad contracts.

While it will still take some time to clearly define the new rules for broadcasters, cable and satellite providers, and perhaps radio stations, it appears as if the wheels of progress are actually being greased. Even as the billion-dollar communication industry fights the move to make all political ad revenue searchable and open to the public — claiming it will be "hard" to digitize paper files (as if anyone still uses paper files) or that trade secrets will be revealed (no one cares, dude) — the FCC's quick response seems to signal an inevitability.

And when paired with the inevitability of the onslaught of political ads looming in 2016's presidential election cycle, it's a necessary one for the American people. In order to keep a clean democracy, transparency is a top priority. Here's to hoping it comes quicker than a snail.

Read the FCC's response to the petition filed by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation (PDF)


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Brandon Perkins
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