Public Comment

From:      <>
To:        NTIADC40.NTIAHQ40(piac)
Date:      11/30/97 2:44pm
Subject:   free tv for candidates

I write to urge you to require digital broadcasters to provide substantial
free TV time to candidates for public office.

One reason big money has so much influence in American politics is the
need for candidates to pay for expensive TV time to get their message out.
But we, the people, own the airwaves!  While the broadcasters use our
commonly owned resource to make profits of hundreds of millions of
dollars, they should have an obligation to reduce the role of big money in
politics, by providing free TV time to qualified candidates.  This will
lead to a more representative democracy, where ideas rather than dollars
have the most influence.

The threshhold to qualify for free time should be reasonable, and low
enough to allow third party and independent candidates to have access as
well.  Free TV could be linked to spending limits, to reduce the ability
of rich candidates to buy public office.  Additionally, free TV could
require candidates to appear in their own ads, and to speak for longer
than a typical thirty second ad, to raise the level of debate in our
politics and engage a citizenry now largely "tuned out" by  negative
political advertising.

While the broadcasters may argue that such an obligation impinges on their
profits, such profits are only possible because of their use of a publicly
owned and limited resource.  Does anyone think there will be a lack of new
applications for digital broadcasting licenses, simply because the
licenses come along with a requirement for substantial free TV for
candidates?  Not very likely, in my view.

I urge the Committee to support such a requirement, and look forward to
hearing your response.

Rob Chamberlin
St. Louis, MO