Telecommunications Policy

Media Reformers Push FCC to Track Financial Backers of Political Speech

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Follow the money!

Today in dubious media reform proposals: Media-centric consumer advocacy group calls for greater FCC involvement in regulating political speech:

The Media Access Project, which advocates on behalf of consumers in telecommunications issues, argues that the FCC has interpreted federal law too narrowly when it comes to disclosures for political ads.

Under current rules, some of which date back to the 1940s, the FCC requires disclosure only for the group claiming responsibility for the ad, no matter how it paid for it.

But Andrew Schwartzman, the media project's senior vice president and policy director, says the Communications Act of 1934 and subsequent legislation anticipates a much broader standard: disclosure of those actually paying for the message.

Schwartzman's petition asks the FCC to revise its rules to require groups to disclose financial backers who contribute more than 10 percent of their budgets as part of public documents filed with broadcast stations. It would also require on-air disclosures for donors who provide more than 25 percent of a television commercial's budget.

As Adam Thierer of The Mercatus Center notes, the FCC already plays federal censor. Do we also want it hovering over the shoulders of groups making political arguments? The agency would be simultaneously tracking financial backers and making judgments about what constitutes acceptable speech—a combination with no small potential to chill political speech.

When attempting to nourish a healthy and productive public debate, that's exactly what we don't want. As with so many proposed campaign finance disclosure rules, one of the things this proposal misses is the straightforward value of allowing anonymous speech—which is most important to preserve and protect in the political sphere. Anonymous speech provides a way to avoid politically driven blowback—and allows individuals to inject ideas into political debates with more hope that those ideas will be judged on their merits rather than on some preexisting biases toward the person behind the ideas.

Watch Reason.tv on the surprisingly strong and historic case for anonymous speech.

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  1. What happened to all the lefties and their “free speech” posters?

    1. “It’s not fascism when we do it.”

  2. As with so many proposed campaign finance disclosure rules, one of the things this proposal misses is the straightforward value of allowing anonymous speech?which is most important to preserve and protect in the political sphere.

    Uhh, they don’t misunderstand the value of anonymous speech at all. That’s the whole point of why they don’t want it to be anonymous.

  3. What’s the saying? Truth is sranger than fiction? Sounds right, because you just can’t make this stuff up. Unbelievable.

  4. When attempting to nourish a healthy and productive public debate…

    The FCC is going to borrow some death panels from Obamacare.

  5. Strange, I went to Media Access Project and could not find a list of their donors. Shouldn’t they be telling everyone who is paying for their political speech?

    1. +24

      (so I don’t have to disclose)

    2. Funny. I went to Opensecrets.org and tried to do the same.

  6. “…disclosure of those actually paying for the message.”
    _

    effing transparency how does it work?

    1. Beats me.

    2. This proposal shows that these folks have no experience in business whatever.

      It would also require on-air disclosures for donors who provide more than 25 percent of a television commercial’s budget.

      And there’s your roadmap to avoidance. Simply break into 5 groups and funnel the money through all 5. Nobody is funding more than 25%, so no disclosure needed. Ta-Da!

      Every restriction must be measured as to how it will be avoided. This one is so dumb as to be laughable.

  7. If you can’t refute the argument, discredit the person making it. Liberalism 101.

    1. lub rhals are too stupid to know better…and that’s not discrediting…cause i said so (?) huh

  8. The Media Access Project, which advocates on behalf of consumers in telecommunications issues

    Yeah fucking right. On their issues pages (which look like they were copied and pasted from an HTML file written by a fourth grader at breakfast) they detail their advocacy for the Fairness Doctrine, must-carry requirements on cable systems, and publicly funding newspapers.

    1. “Consumers” is the new code word for progressives.

    2. Yes, I was also going to ask how mandatory disclosure of political ad financing constitutes “advocacy for consumers.”

      And as a media consumer myself, who appointed them as my advocate? Did I miss the memo?

    3. and publicly funding newspapers.

      Because turning the nation’s media into a state mouthpiece advances freedom!1!!1

  9. In addition, how else are we going to protect sensitive Reasonoids from cheap “suck my Koch” jokes?

    1. Hey!

  10. lol, that FCC is about as useless as the TSA.

    http://www.real-privacy.it.tc

  11. NPR was all over this story the other day. What’s amazing is that it was suggested that a five-member body of unelected bureaucrats at the FCC would be declaring which political speech passed muster, and which didn’t. A five member body telling 360,000,000 which speech is right, and which was wrong.

    Not to mention we’ve already got a five-member panel at the FEC giving nod to correct and incorrect political speech.

    And we call this a democracy.

    1. Blatantly unconstitutional. As always.

    2. A five member body telling 360,000,000 which speech is right, and which was wrong.

      We the People, in order to facilitate Interstate Commerce, General Welfare, and Necessary and Proper, must shut the fuck up and do what the Philosopher-Kings say.

      The end.

  12. No doubt with exemptions for labor unions.

    1. Has it ever occured to anyone that just like that bully in “the bully takedown video” had to get a little bloodied to get him to back off, that the same tactic would be effective with respect to the unions? What if people started beating the shit out of union thugs? What if people started shooting out the windows of union halls? What if people sent death threats to union officials at their homes and camped out on their lawns?

      I’m guessing they’d back down fast.

      1. The unionized police and union-bought politicians would hunt those people down like dogs.

  13. I guess the notion to remove the power to grant favors from the politicians, and thus, the money, was too sensible.

  14. “and allows individuals to inject ideas into political debates with more hope that those ideas will be judged on their merits rather than on some preexisting biases toward the person behind the ideas”

    Exactly!

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