Background of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Political File


Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Data identifies how much each Presidential candidate spent on media and TV advertising, when and where the spots were aired, to ultimately predict the plans for future advertising.

Getting accurate advertising spend and details from the FCC is difficult, as you have to retrieve and aggregate data from the orders, contracts, and invoices of the Political File for each broadcasting station, extract the values from the PDF files, eliminate duplicates in the documents based on multiple revisions of different documents, and do error-correction on the data.

Our platform does all these for you, providing you with easy and full access to the media and TV advertising data.


Did you know..

.. that the most expensive single advertising contract runs from Oct 27 to Nov 3 in Tampa/St. Pete, Florida, and Donald Trump's campaign pays $884,250.00 for it. Here is the original filing (pages 3 to end).

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Background of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a federal agency to regulate broadcasting, and was created by the Communications Act of 1934.

The FCC requires that spendings for advertising time have to be disclosed to the public, and TV and radio stations have to maintain a public inspection file that must be uploaded to the FCC hosted website. The goal of the public inspection file is to provide transparency and to comply with the Communications Act, and contains information like FCC license information and the Political File.

The Political File contains:

  • All requests for schedules of advertising by political candidates,
  • The final deals agreed on,
  • Credits/rebates given to the advertiser.
    All filing has to occur immediately, and contain information about when the advertising airs.


The FCC Political File

Content according to the Amendments of Sections 73.3526(e)(2) and 73.3527(e)(2) to the Communications Act of 1934:
(The records are retained for two years)

"This file must contain all requests for specific schedules of advertising time by candidates and certain issue advertisers, as well as the final dispositions or 'deals' agreed to by the broadcaster and the advertiser in response to any requests. It is not necessary to retain any of the materials relating to the negotiation between the parties to reach the disposition. The file must also include the reconciliation of the deal such as a description of when advertising actually aired, advertising preempted, and the timing of any make-goods of preempted time, as well as credits or rebates given to the advertiser. The request and disposition must be placed in the file as soon as possible, which the Commission has determined is immediately absent extraordinary circumstances. The reconciliation information need not be placed in the file, immediately, but the broadcaster must identify a person or persons at the station capable of informing an advertiser of the details of any reconciliation information."

Source:, page 29. Bolded text added for emphasis.

However, not all requests are uploaded immediately to the FCC. The chart below shows the delay between the date when a document was issued and the date when a document was uploaded to the FCC public file.


FCC submission delay (in days)

In a sample of 191 documents (filed 2019 and earlier),

  • 29% were uploaded on the same day,
  • 74% were uploaded within 7 days,
  • 82% were uploaded within 14 days,
  • Only 18% were uploaded after 14 days.

What’s Next

Feel free to learn more about filing with the FCC or dive directly into our data: