From: Patricia Vary <t80psv1@WPO.CSO.NIU.EDU>
Date: 12/3/97 4:01pm
To: Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of
Digital Television Broadcasters.
Fr: Patricia S. Vary
Re: Public Comment
The major problem with campaign finances is the amount of
TV time that has to be bought by candidates in order to be
viable. In most democracies in the world, candidates
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
of such advertising, which is 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.
Please require broadcasters should to 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
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.
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.
Although 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
I urge the Committee to support such a requirement, and look
forward to hearing your response.
Patricia S. Vary