Richard Greener was an equity partner in the old US Radio Group and VP/GM of WAOK Atlanta. He says that although he has nothing against capitalism, candidates should not be sold like soap, and is calling for limited free political spots, for candidates only, as a license condition.
Greener took to the virtual pages of Huffington Post to outline his proposal.
He noted that although private companies profit from their piece of the spectrum, and buy and sell that piece to one another, they still do not own it. And he argued that it should not be possible for the airwaves to be commandeered by special interests with boatloads of cash to spend for to forward their own narrow political interests.
“Responsible broadcasters should take no part in this and responsible citizens and taxpayers should demand that their radio and television frequencies not be used as a crucial determinant in the electoral process. After all, the airwaves belong to all of us.”
Here is his proposal:
“The FCC ought to require all stations – radio and television – to make time available, at no cost, to all candidates officially on the ballot for public office in the station’s city of license and area served by the station’s signal.”
Greener continued, “This would also apply to candidates running in party primaries. There should be restrictions both as to when these announcements could be broadcast and the total number of spots. My suggestion is 100 thirty or sixty-second spots to be broadcast beginning no earlier than 60 days before the election. This free time would be available only to the candidate, not to his or her supporters.”
He concluded, “Additionally, no time at all should be available for sale either to the candidate or to anyone else in support of any candidate. In this way equal access would be guaranteed to all candidates with no advantage to anyone. It’s time we got rid of paid political advertisements.”
RBR-TVBR observation: The thing that jumps out about Greener’s proposal, whether you love or hate political advertising, is how utterly infeasible it is. The other thing that jumps out is that no matter how many times the idea of free political ads is beaten down, it always pops right back up like the zombie proposal it is.
Let’s just look at Washington DC as a quick practical example – stations there would be responsible for accommodating candidates from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and possibly parts of West Virginia, not to mention a staggering number of counties and municipalities.
It is an impractical suggestion before you even begin to craft definitions of what constitutes a viable candidate.
We are sure that there are differences of opinion on how and even if there should be an attempt to throttle the cash flow into the political process among the relatively small data pool of citizens who are members of the RBR-TVBR staff. As such, we will offer no suggestion in this space as to what, if anything, should be done on that count.
But we will say this with utter confidence: Mr. Greener’s proposal is completely and utterly impractical. And the saddest thing about it is that there will always be somebody else is waiting in line to blurt out the same impractical proposal.