Public Comment

From:      Brian Abernathy <>
To:        NTIADC40.NTIAHQ40(piac)
Date:      12/1/97 7:25am
Subject:   Public Comment

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.  This
influence has not only bought our democracy, but also has made the average
citizen apathetic and uninformed concerning specific issues and candidates.
 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.  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.

If this requirement were instituted, then our country would take its first
step toward substantive democracy rather than the symbolic system under
which we currently live.  Real issues, real information, and real options
would be open to every citizen in order to make an educated decision on
election day.

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


Brian Abernathy