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The new FCC database of political ad spending on TV sucks

By on August 5, 2012

The FCC finally launched the long-awaited website that tracks political ad spending on broadcast TV stations – except, well, it sucks:

It is difficult to get an overall picture of spending by a single campaign, super PAC, or other outside group. You can only search by station name, network affiliation, or channel number, not by, say, typing in the name of the political campaign or outside group that bought an ad. I asked the FCC about this and an agency official who declined to be named said that “plans are to have a search function shortly but the scope is yet undetermined.”

Then there’s the fact that, as we’ve previously noted, the FCC declined to require broadcasters to upload files in a single format. That means that it won’t be easy to aggregate data and analyze it in volume. That’s in contrast, for example, to federal election filings, which are uploaded in a single, so-called “machine-readable” format that can be analyzed with computers. The head of the FCC’s media bureau has said that putting the files in a single format is a “long-term goal.” The new FCC website is also still under construction. The “Help” section, for example, is blank.

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