Meet the Media Companies Lobbying Against Transparency
News organizations cultivate a reputation for demanding transparency, whether by suing for access to government documents, dispatching camera crews to the doorsteps of recalcitrant politicians, or editorializing in favor of open government.
But now many of the country's biggest media companies, which own dozens of newspapers and TV news operations, are flexing their muscle in Washington in a fight against a government initiative to increase transparency of political spending.
The corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism — NBC News, ABC News, Fox News, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and dozens of local TV news outlets — are lobbying against a Federal Communications Commission measure that would require broadcasters to post political ad data on the Internet.
As we have recently detailed, political ad data is public by law but not easy to get because it is kept only in paper files at each station. The FCC has proposed fixing that by requiring broadcasters to post online the details of political ad purchases, including the identity of the buyer and the price.
(ProPublica has been inviting readers and other journalists to send in the files to be posted as part of our Free the Files project.)
Over the past few months, several major media companies have dispatched top executives or outside lobbyists to the FCC to oppose the proposed rule or to push a watered-down version, disclosure filings show. (The FCC will vote on the issue April 27.)
Among them are:
- News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal and Fox News;
- Walt Disney, which owns ABC News and ESPN;
- NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast and includes NBC News;
- Allbritton, which owns several TV stations and Politico;
- Gannett Broadcasting, a division of Gannett, which owns USA Today:
- Post-Newsweek Stations, the broadcast division of The Washington Post Co.;
- Belo Cos., which owns 20 TV stations;
- Cox Media Group, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Austin American-Statesman and other newspapers and TV stations;
- Dispatch Broadcast Group, which owns Ohio and Indiana TV stations;
- Barrington Broadcasting Group, which owns several TV stations around the country;
- The E.W. Scripps Co., which owns TV stations and newspapers, including The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn.;
- Hearst Television Inc., which owns 29 stations;
- Raycom Media, which owns TV stations;
- Schurz Communications, which owns newspapers and TV stations nationwide.
(ProPublica has published stories in partnership with many of these news organizations, and has an agreement with NBC's owned and operated TV stations for pre-publication access to our news apps and a contribution by NBC to ProPublica.)