Washington Area ABC Affiliate Continues to Violate Ads Disclosure Rules Drawing Another FCC Complaint

CLC Staff
Oct 20, 2014
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This evening, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation filed a complaint at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) alleging violations of long-standing rules and law by WJLA, an ABC-affiliated broadcast station in Washington, D.C.  The complaint notes that WJLA continues to refuse to disclose the "true identity" of the sponsor of political ads being run by NextGen Climate Action Committee and asks for expedited action given that Election Day is just a few weeks away.

“Despite being warned that it was in violation of the law, WJLA continues to ignore the requirements to disclose on-air the ‘true identity’ of the funders of the political ads that the station is running.  The FCC must hold this station accountable for these knowing and wilful violations,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director.  “WJLA is more than happy to receive top dollar to air these ads, but they do a great disservice to their viewers by refusing to reveal the donor behind them when his name is readily available and has even been provided to them by our organizations.  This is not ‘seven on your side;’ it’s ‘seven on the billionaires side.’” 

The groups filed a similar complaint earlier this month noting that WJLA was running ads with the on-air sponsorship disclaimer identifying the sponsor as "NextGen Climate Action Committee."  As the earlier "application for review" pointed out, substantial evidence showed that Tom Steyer has provided almost all of the funding for this organization, yet he was not identified on-air as the true sponsor of the commercials.

The Media Bureau of the FCC dismissed the October 2 complaint by saying that the groups had not shown that WJLA necessarily knew that Tom Steyer was the true sponsor and that the groups should have approached the station directly to furnish it with evidence calling the identity of the true sponsor into question.

Today's new complaint notes that WJLA filed an opposition in response to the earlier complaint and thus demonstrated its awareness that Tom Steyer provided, and continues to provide, substantially all of NextGen's funding.  Today's complaint requests the FCC to declare that, for its failure to include the true identity of the sponsor of the ad, WJLA is not in compliance with Section 317 of the Communications Act and 47 CFR Section 73.1212.  If a violation is found, the FCC can assess a forfeiture for WJLA's willful noncompliance with the law and grant other relief at its discretion.

To read the complaint, click here.

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