Transparency in Political Advertising: Assessing the Utility and Validity of the FCC's Online Public Inspection File System

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2018-01-01
Authors
Newell, Jay
Blevins, Jeffrey
Newell, Jay
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Altmetrics
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Newell, Jay
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Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
Abstract

This research explores the usability of the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC's) online Public Inspection Files to measure the sources and quantities of political advertising on broadcast television. We compared data from FCC files with data purchased from a commercial vendor in a presidential caucus campaign that stretched across nine months, including advertising sponsored by over 40 groups and totaled tens of millions of dollars. The FCC-derived and commercial data were consistent in reporting the quantity of advertising, but sponsor identification was inconsistent between data sources, raising concerns about the FCC's ability to disclose reliable information about political ad spending.

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This article is published as Newell, J., Blevins, J.L. Transparency in Political Advertising: Assessing the Utility and Validity of the FCC's Online Public Inspection File System. Journal of Information Policy., (2018), 8; 417-441. Doi: 10.5325/jinfopoli.8.2018.0417. Posted with permission.

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