Broadcasters Extorting the Political Process

  • Broadcasters Extorting the Political Process
    The American Prospect this month features an article called “Cornering the Airwaves,” that details the rich bounty that television broadcasters reap from political campaigns through their ad dollars. Author Paul Taylor points out the election season price gouging that goes on, despite federal laws prohibiting such practices. The key to circumventing these laws is soft money advertising–those ads that aren’t run by the candidates and their parties themselves–which raise the bidding for all guaranteed commercial airtime, therefore also brining up the lowest average cost that stations charge, and which federal candidates are supposed to pay. Taylor also takes note of the correlation between the immense gains in ad revenue from political advertising and the decrease in substantial election news coverage.
    Clearly, this demonstrates that the basic problem with a profit-driven media that is also supposed to stand as the fourth estate defenders of the public sphere and democratic information distribution. Yet, with the onslaught of political advertising, the commercial media, especially television, end up profiting by performing exactly the opposite function. Profit lies in being the unexamining propaganda prostitute of the very politicians that the press, as the fourth estate, is supposed to be on guard against–hence its priviledged status as a constitutionally protected enterprise. Why do you think that mass media advertising profits are never discussed in mainstream media coverage of campaign finance reform?

    Of course, this is why the commercial mainstream media likes to have some public media around, to take that “public service” burden off their backs. Which works until Congress attacks federal spending on public media–like the Gringrich-led House did in 1995–forcing public TV and radio to take on more commercial-like methods of fundraising and air more underwriting spots that look and sound increasingly like commercials. Those methods carry a price, which means cowtowing to the same forces that impinge on the commercial media.

    Indpendent Media is here and growing to fill this void. But the question remains — how to fund it and make it as accessible and known as the dominant mainstream media?

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