Policy Division Dismisses Sunlight Foundation et al Complaints
Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
September 2, 2014
Andrew Jay Schwartzman
Institute for Public Representation
Georgetown University Law Center
600 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Suite 312
Washington, DC 20001
RE: Complaints against ACC Licensee, LLC, Licensee of Station WJLA-TV, Washington, D.C, and
Sander Media, LLC, Licensee of Station KGW(TV), Portland, OR
Dear Mr. Schwartzman:
This letter refers to the complaints filed by the Institute for Public Representation on behalf of
the Campaign Legal Center, the Sunlight Foundation, and Common Cause on July 17, 2014, against the
The complaints, which were served on the licensees’ respective counsel on
July 17, 2014, allege violations of Section 317 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47
U.S.C. § 317, and Section 73.1212(e) of the Commission’s Rules, 47 U.S.C. § 73.1212(e).
Complainants argue that the stations failed to “fully and fairly disclose the true identity” of the sponsors
in their on-air sponsorship identifications of certain political issue advertising, as required by Section
317 of the Act, and failed to list the principal(s) of the alleged true sponsor in their public files, as
required by Section 73.1212(e) of the Rules.
We conclude that the complaints do not provide a sufficient showing that the stations had
credible evidence casting into doubt that the identified sponsors of the advertisement were the true
sponsors. As the Commission has stated previously, “unless furnished with credible, unrefuted evidence
that a sponsor is acting at the direction of a third party, the broadcaster may rely on the plausible
assurances of the person(s) paying for the time that they are the true sponsor.”1 While the complaint
against WJLA presented some evidence that station employees may have come across facts in the course
of news reporting on political issues that could have raised questions in their minds concerning the
relationship of NextGen Climate Action Committee and Tom Steyer, we exercise our discretion not to
pursue enforcement in this instance, given the need to balance the “reasonable diligence” obligations of
broadcasters in identifying the sponsor of an advertisement with the sensitive First Amendment interests
present here. Our approach might have been different if the complainants had approached the stations
directly to furnish them with evidence calling into question that the identified sponsors were the true
1 Trumper Communications of Portland, LTD, 11 FCC Rcd 20415 (1996) (citing Loveday v. FCC, 707 F.2d 1443 (D.C. Cir.
1983)). Cf. Loveday, 707 F.2d at 1459 (“There may be cases where a challenger makes so strong a circumstantial case that
someone other than the named sponsor is the real sponsor that licensees, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, would have
to inform the named sponsor that they could not broadcast the message without naming another party.”).
Accordingly, we hereby dismiss both complaints without prejudice.
Robert L. Baker
Assistant Chief, Policy Division
Federal Communications Commission
Barry Faber Esq., Sinclair Broadcast Group, for WJLA-TV
James R. W. Bayes, Esq., Wiley Rein LLP, for KGW(TV)
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