Just a month ago, the FCC denied complaints alleging that Washington DC TV stations had not adequately identified the true sponsor of political ads sponsored by a political action committee. When that decision came down – denied on procedural grounds by the Commission – we warned that it opened the door to more complaints in the current election cycle. Sure enough, a new complaint has been filed against one of the same DC stations, contending that in the current election cycle, it should have gone beyond the sponsorship identification of the PAC itself as the sponsor of the ad, and instead identified the sponsor as the individual who contributed the majority of the PAC’s funding.
The complaint, filed by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation, the same DC public interest groups that filed the previous complaints, alleges that WJLA-TV failed in identifying the true sponsor of ads by the Next Gen Climate Action Committee as Tom Steyer, the individual who they allege (based on FEC disclosures) provided the majority of the funding for the PAC. In last month’s decision, the FCC rejected a similar petition about the same PAC, deciding not to pursue the complaint as the station was not directly put on notice of the allegations raised in the complaints before the ads ran. In the new petition, the petitioners don’t allege that they made any contact with the station to alert the station about their new complaints. Instead, the complaint alleges that the TV station should have known about the issues because it is the same PAC that was named in last year’s complaint, and the station should have known about the petitioners allegations that the sponsorship tag is incorrect. But is there a real issue here? Continue Reading