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Pennsylvania: Help Keep TV Political Ads Transparent

Daniel Victor
Propublica / News Analysis
Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
“Since broadcasters are resisting a proposal to put the data online, we’re doing it for them.”
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Pennsylvanians know what it means to live in a swing state, and that typically includes seeing lots of political commercials on TV. Thanks to the April 24 Republican primary, the next few weeks will be no different.

As part of our “Free the Files” project, we need your help to ensure that the spending behind those ads is accessible to the public.

Each TV station in the U.S. keeps a detailed record of who is buying political ads, how much the ads cost, and when they are airing. It’s public data, but so far it's been accessible only by physically visiting the station and asking to see “the public file.”

Since broadcasters are resisting a proposal to put the data online, we’re doing it for them. We need volunteers from each big TV market in Pennsylvania (see the table below) to visit the stations, make copies of the paper files, then scan and email them to us. We’ll help organize and post the disclosure documents on the web.

We still need volunteers to visit the stations during business hours. It takes about 15 to 30 minutes at the station, plus however long it takes to scan and email the files.

So far, more than 235 people nationwide have signed up but only six in Pennsylvania — and there are more than 25 stations to visit in six markets.

Are you a student? This might be the perfect project for you. Northwestern University students were our first contributors to the project. We’re also eager to work with news organizations, as we have with the Cincinnati Enquirer and Wisconsin State Journal. But anybody who has some spare time can do it.

To participate, please fill out this form. We ask that you do not visit the stations without first notifying us; we want to make sure that you are not duplicating someone else’s work.

Here are more detailed instructions, including how news organizations can use DocumentCloud to post the documents on their own sites.

For more on why it matters and what we can accomplish, see our original post.

These are the stations we need people to visit:

Erie WICU WJET WSEE WFXP  
Harrisburg
Lancaster
Lebanon
York
WGAL WLYH WHP WHTM WPMT
Johnstown
Altoona
State College
WJAC WWCP WTAJ WATM  
Philadelphia KYW WPVI WCAU WPSG WTXF
Pittsburgh KDKA WTAE WXPI WPCW WPGH
Scranton
Wilkes-Barre
WNEP WYOU WBRE WSWB WOLF

 



There should be a law on

There should be a law on political commercials to have 'truth' in advertising and a list of those responsible for the add. I like the way other countries allow only a short time period before elections for such adds as well.
Our whole election system is faulty-from the time allowed that the polls be open, the I.D requirements (some older people, born at home, have never had a birth certificate and cannot afford to spend $ to get them now, but have voted for years) plus the electronic voting machine flaws in security the media just does not report. Even the Argon Labs (gov) found so many they could not believe those machines were being used, much less, mandated! Princeton,MIT and other universities have stated the same thing. Only one good article in the NY Times reported that even slot machines were inspected by the state, voting machines=no-only the seller can program or fix them! Diebold, one of the biggest manufacture's and sellers of them can have faultless AT M machines for banks, but their voting machines are totally unsafe. Where's the outrage on this? Blackboxvoting.org has been studying them for years, with reams of evidence they should not be used. Go there for a source of really factual, scary info.

Right on! Also, BradBlog.com

Right on! Also, BradBlog.com has been studying the 100% unverifiable electronic voting machines for years. Brad Friedman also advocates 100% verifiable paper ballots ("Democracy's Gold Standard"). Filled out by hand and hand counted at the polling place, in front of the public, right after the polls close. You know, like the Republicans did at the caucuses in Iowa. The hand counting that discovered the mistake in the tally and made Santorum the winner!

Better yet----pass laws

Better yet----pass laws banning ALL political commercials on TV during an election cycle. Establish the idea that the ONLY way a candidate can get on TV is to go on with his/her opponent and debate the issues with no reporters asking questions and turning it into a simultaneous press conference. When the candidates agree to do this it will be for free as a public service on the public airwaves (or satellite transmission).

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