The DISCLOSE Act recently passed the Committee in the House of Representatives charged with dealing with it, without many of the provisions that most worried broadcasters and cable companies. We recently wrote about the DISCLOSE Act legislation proposed in both the House and Senate in response to the Citizens United Supreme Court case (which freed corporations and labor unions to spend money during political campaigns to explicitly support or oppose the election of particular candidates). When introduced, in addition to provisions mandating new disclosure requirements for corporations, labor unions and other third parties who decide to run political ads, the legislation had a section expanding the requirements for lowest unit rates and reasonable access – extending these rights to political parties (as opposed to being limited to the candidate’s own campaign committees, who are the only ones eligible under current law) and mandating advertising rates even lower than the current lowest unit charges in certain circumstances. That section of the original bill also required that the FCC conduct audits of broadcasters’ compliance with the political rules, and seemingly expanded the FCC political advertising obligations of cable systems. The House of Representatives Committee on Administration this week approved the bill, sending it on to the full House for consideration. The DISCLOSE Act’s sponsors want to have the bill approved and in place by July 4th so that it will have an impact on the November elections. The approval without these provisions, which may well have caused broadcasters and other media companies to come out in opposition to the bill and delayed its passage, signals that the Act may in fact move on the rapid timeline that its sponsors envision.
Of course, this is not the end of the story. The Senate still has to consider the bill in committee, and the full House and the full Senate have to vote on the legislation before it is adopted. At any point, amendments can be offered that could have the impact of returning some of these provisions of concern. But, at least for now, while imposing some additional disclosure requirements on political advertisers, the House version of the legislation is much more palatable to the broadcasting community. But watch this bill as it progresses through Congress in the coming month to see what else may develop.