Public Comment

From:      <>
To:        NTIADC40.NTIAHQ40(piac)
Date:      12/1/97 10:19pm
Subject:   Fwd: ALERT: Free TV for candidates! (by 12/5)

Dear Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital
Television Broadcasters,
     I support the idea of requiring digital broadcasters to provide free air
time to candidates.  The airways belong to the public and it seems reasonable
to require private companies, which make tens of millions of dollars from the
use of this public resource, to block off a small part the public airways to
make democracy work.  Television stations have profited enormously from the
exisiting system of selling air time to candidates.  They obviously will not
change the system, unless forced to do so by the government.  
     I urge you to act quickly to protect our electoral system from the
corrosive influences of big money and require free public air time for
Sanford Pooler
8 West St.
Somerville, MA  02144
Forwarded message:
From: (PIRG-Chris Chatto)
Date: 97-11-27 05:47:32 EST

The President's Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital
Television Broadcasters is accepting public comments via email
<>.  Email them before their next meeting on December 5th,
and let them know that the public interest obligations of television
broadcasters should require them to provide forums for political candidates
to express their views to the public.

* BACKGROUND * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

* PROBLEM * Part of what drives the power of big money in politics is
candidates' need to buy expensive TV time to get their message out to large
constituencies. In most democracies in the world, candidates receive
substantial free and reduced cost access to the publicly owned airwaves and
postal systems, to inform voters about their campaigns.  The public owns
the airwaves in the U.S., too, but there is no free access for candidates.
Broadcasters receive a free license to use a specific frequency of our
limited airwaves, in exchange for agreeing to serve "the public interest."
They then charge advertisers, including candidates, enormous amounts of
money to broadcast messages via their assigned frequencies.  The high cost
of such advertising, often necessary to reach large numbers of voters in
huge Congressional and Senate districts, opens the door for big money to
decide which candidates will have adequate resources to win.

* SOLUTION * Broadcasters should provide substantial free TV to candidates,
in fulfillment of their federally mandated public interest obligations.
Threshholds to qualify for free time should be reasonable, and set low
enough to allow third party and independent candidates to have access as
well.  With free access to the airwaves (and postal system), every
challenger would have a chance to run a viable campaign, especially if the
free time were accompanied by spending limits to prevent multi-millionaire
candidates from dominating elections. Additionally, free time could raise
the level of debate, by requiring candidates to appear in their own ads,
for longer than the currently popular thirty second ad. 

* CAMPAIGN * Recently, the President established the Advisory Committee on
Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters.  This body
will advise the President on what to require of broadcasters when granting
them digital licenses.  These obligations range over numerous areas, from
children's TV programming to news programming to free TV time for political
candidates.  The committee is accepting public comment.  We need to get
public comments in to the committee urging them to support free TV for
candidates as a public interest obligation of digital broadcasters.

Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television
The State PIRG's Democracy Pages

* ACTION *  Write an email to the Committee <>, before
their next meeting on Dec. 5th. A sample is below; please write in your own
words why you feel strongly about this issue.

* SAMPLE EMAIL * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Re: 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.  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

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
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.


* END SAMPLE EMAIL * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Christopher Chatto, Internet Organizer      e-mail:
The State Public Interest Research Groups
1129 State St #10, Santa Barbara CA 93101   805(p)9630949(f)9658939

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