FCC tunes into free campaign advertising

Now that the elections are over, it is time to turn a critical eye on the election process. The unreasonable costs of running a political campaign have priced all but the political elite out of most elections. Recently, the Federal Communications Commission has been working to level the playing field. The FCC hopes to ensure free television air time for candidates. Free air time would promote equality in political campaigns and more accurately inform voters.
Ideally television should be a place where the people are able to participate in an open forum and political candidates are able to interact with the public they are campaigning to represent.
This sounds good until one remembers that air time costs money. Costs associated with campaign advertising quickly reach astronomical levels. Unfortunately, this creates an imbalance in the democratic system. Presently it favors politicians with access to more funds. This creates a rift between the two major parties and smaller third parties.
Republicans and Democrats, who have large bases of support, are able to draw from many resources for advertising money. On the other hand, smaller parties either have to find independently wealthy candidates or settle for smaller advertising campaigns which reach less of the public and therefore remove any legitimate chance of their winning an election.
Since campaigns need such large war chests, candidates must spend considerable time fund raising. They are forced to use valuable time that could be spent serving the public raising money for radio and television advertisements. The candidate who takes the most time away from dealing with the issues will have the best funded, and therefore most effective, campaign.
It is time for broadcasters to give something back to the public. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., has stated, “It is important to remember that the airwaves do not belong to the broadcasters, they belong to the American people.” Broadcasters have a responsibility to help better society as a whole.
The FCC is not demanding a channel devoted exclusively to election coverage. The proposed plan would even leave scheduling of campaign ads up to individual broadcast stations. The FCC is merely asking that broadcasters voluntarily provide five free minutes of air time daily during the 30 days leading up to an election.
Many broadcasters have balked at these proposals, maintaining that it is not the role of the government to determine programming content. They argue forced election coverage would severely reduce profit margins. It is unlikely five minutes a day for 30 days will cause any broadcast company to go bankrupt.
The FCC is properly making sure that they live up to their obligations. Moreover, when campaign advertising is readily available to all candidates, they will be able to focus on issues and not worry about from where their funds will be coming. Communication media, if used properly, can revitalize democracy in a way that will better suit the public and political candidates, making more voices heard come election time.