By Larry Keene, Traffic Directors Guild of America (TDGA) President
Here's One Way To Get Broadcaster's Attention- Upset The Status Quo On Political Rates!
Admittedly, it was one of those bills that was bound to come forward, but all of a sudden, the Fair Elections Now Act, co-sponsored by Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Specter (R-PA) is going to garner headlines deep down in the Broadcaster's wallet, if it goes on to become law. After Round One of hearings on June 20th, we couldn't find a single broadcast entity that saw merit in the measure. Now let's be fair- there are some "ifs" involved in the measure, but the bottom-line is going to make discounted spots from auction-houses seem like a windfall compared to the sharp reductions mandated by the Bill's provisions.
The Fair Elections Now Act is, in theory, an effort to further publicly funded elections. Candidates that agree to limit their "funding" to small public contributions get the break. Candidates are currently charged the lowest unit rate for TV and Radio spots, but the bill would give them an extra 20% discount in the political windows prior to Election Day (Primaries and General).
We must make note that all the headlines deal with Television, and while that may be the key target of the measure, Radio will be dragged along as an easy add-on although politicians definitely are zeroing on TV as the presumed "pot at the end of the politician's rainbow."
Wait there's more. The "FENA" (we just couldn't find an acronym that's so close to another government winner, well-intentioned to be sure, but not noted for success in New Orleans), would offer the lowest unit rate and discount beyond candidates to include political parties. (Imagine the clutter of negativity and garbage your airwaves will suddenly be forced to carry when the RNC and DNC get their hands on Broadcasting's lower than bargain basement pricing under this proposed law.
Oh… and broadcasters cannot preempt these ads. Non-preemptible at preemptible rates–plus the 20% discount near Election Day. Do we have your interest yet? If not, this should do it: Radio & TV broadcasters would be taxed 2% of their gross advertising revenues to underwrite a political advertising voucher system that would help underwrite ad spending by federal candidates and parties. Now, you can quickly translate this to what we see as a Tax on every single commercial advertiser to fund the politicos, and their parties. Of course, the tax is on the Broadcaster, but obviously another 2% slice of the pie has to be replaced by passing it on to the advertiser.
Are there better alternatives? You bet, but there were no Broadcasters on the panel of those testifying in round one. TDGA happily will volunteer, but our plan mandates no public funding of negative ads, candidates only and a fixed "reasonable" amount of "access time" on Radio & TV Commercial Stations; none on non-commercial outlets. It won't happen, of course because we've added the non-negative" clause. Imagine a candidate having to talk about their hopes, their plans and their candidacy only. Washington isn't ready for truth, justice and the American Way…(At least not until "after" each Election Day).