For years, Sunlight has been pushing for the Federal Communications Commission to make the public files held by media broadcasters truly public – and what that really means is getting them online. Sunlight and our allies at Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Institute of Public Representation at Georgetown recently won a small victory, successfully petitioning the FCC to bring all television broadcasters’ files online, and are now closely watching as the FCC considers another petition of ours: bringing radio, satellite and cable providers’ “public” files online as well.
This week, our coalition filed reply comments in that proceeding, responding and offering solutions to questions raised by the industry and the FCC. It’s not a long read, but the message is clear: It’s not public unless it’s online.
Additionally, we are calling on the FCC to address the need for improving data quality. While having these files online is a tremendous step forward — imagine trying to survey all of the money spent by going to each individual broadcasting station, of which there are thousands, and looking at its paper files — their true utility will only be realized once the forms are standardized, the quality of data is high and the data is available in bulk. As with this database and others stuck in the paper age, when Sunlight analyzes and republishes the information within, it requires hand-processing of reams of data.
However, getting everything online is the first step, and we’re hopeful that the FCC will ultimately enact a comprehensive, effective rule that requires these public files to be online. After that, we need them to make the data useable.
You can read the full reply comments here: