From: Patricia Vary <t80psv1@WPO.CSO.NIU.EDU>

To: NTIADC40.NTIAHQ40(piac)

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

high cost

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