Nader asks Limbaugh for a rent check


Consumer activist and perennial third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader is accusing Rush Limbaugh of being one of the richest welfare recipients in America, since he used the publicly-owned airwaves rent-free to support his multimillion dollar salary. He said that radio and television companies are mere tenants to the citizen owners, but unfortunately the corporate tenants have long had the FCC in their back pocket.

RBR/TVBR observation: Activists like Nader seem to believe that if only they can make enough noise and get a big enough megaphone, the “people” will follow them with pikes and pitchforks and drive the corporatists off the air. But we’ve seen how many people follow Nader in particular – it works out to from 1%-3%.

Just who does Nader think will decide what goes on the air once the people are in charge? He may be OK with the Nader Network on radio and TV, but would Nader want any popularly elected government official running these networks? We think not, since he has been severely critical of both major political parties. But that’s who would be running it, since members of the two major political parties are ones the citizens almost always seem to choose.

The airwaves are owned by the public, but the US government, representing the American people, long ago decided that keeping them in the hands of private citizens and companies was vastly preferable to a government owned-and-operated system of broadcasting. Since the airwaves are a scarce resource, the FCC has been needed as an umpire.

You can argue that the rules need to be changed, but we think even Ralph Nader would feel himself a victim of unintended consequences if he turned the airwaves over to “the people.”

Here is Nader’s full letter to Limbaugh.

Mr. Limbaugh,

The Associated Press reports your new contract with Premiere Radio Networks will enrich you with at least $38 million a year over the next eight years. You are making this money on the public property of the American people for which you pay no rent.

You, Rush Limbaugh, are on welfare.

As you know, the public airwaves belong to the American people. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is supposed to be our trustee in managing this property. The people are the landlords and the radio and TV stations and affiliated companies are the tenants.

The problem is that since the Radio Act of 1927 these corporate tenants have been massively more powerful in Washington, DC than the tens of millions of listeners and viewers. The result has been no payment of rent by the stations for the value of their license to broadcast. You and your company are using the public’s valuable property for free. This freeloading on the backs of the American people is called corporate welfare.

It is way past due for the super-rich capitalist — Rush Limbaugh from Cape Girardeau, Missouri — to get himself off big time welfare. It is way past due for Rush Limbaugh as the Kingboy of corporatist radio to set a capitalist example for his peers and pay rent to the American people for the very lucrative use of their property.

You need not wait for the broadcast industry-indentured FCC and Congress to do the right thing. You can lead by paying a voluntary rent — determined by a reputable appraisal organization — for the time you use on the hundreds of stations that carry your words each weekday.

Payment of rent for the use of public airwaves owned by the American people is the conservative position. Real conservatives oppose corporate welfare. Real corporatists feed voraciously from hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare gushing out of Washington, DC yearly.

Whose side are you on? Freeloading? Or paying rent for the public property you have been using free for many years?

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph Nader