Public Discourse & Private Profit – Corporate Media, Elections & Democracy
"The cost to try to influence the 2008 election could exceed $3 billion, according to TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on political television advertising. This is nearly twice as much than what was spent in 2004 when political and issue-advocacy television advertising rang in at $1.7 billion. In 2006, $2.3 billion was spent on political and issue-advocacy TV commercials."
Mark Preston, CNN
"In 2002 and 2003, Senator John McCain sponsored free air time bills that would have made airing political advertisements a non-profit business. The first bill was called the Free Air Time Bill and the second was called Our Democracy, Our Airwaves. Neither bill made it out of committee, which shows the power of profit over the good of the people. Nevertheless, the issue remains unresolved. Why should the media using public airwaves get millions or billions of dollars for a public service? Elected public officials are public servants, and their campaigns are informational services to the public. Broadcasters do not deserve huge profits for marketing public servants."
That is the question – why should the corporate media, using our airwaves, be licensed to profit from our democratic processes – much less control the flow of information and edit the content without public imput?
Indeed, we get no rent, no free airtime, no control over "our" media for democratic purposes. Why?
Clearly, we’ve reached an obscene level in terms of this never-ending campaign which is driving the electorate nuts and enriching the media at our expense. The 2008 election cycle is projected to cost over three billion dollars in advertising costs for candidates. Television broadcasters expect to pocket more than $2 billion of the $3 billion that will likely be spent on 2008 election-related advertising, according to Evan Tracey, founder and COO Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Moreover, a study by the Alliance for Better Campaigns group indicated that local television stations increased the prices of candidate ads by more than 50% in the two months preceding the 2002 election. Yet despite the price-gouging, and vast profits produced, broadcasters still fail to adequately cover elections and campaigns. The Lear Center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School also reported that more than half of local news broadcasts ignored the 2002 midterm election campaigns.
So not only are we not getting our media’s worth but this means those seeking office needs lots of money. The real question is why they need it and where do most candidates get it in our Buckley-v-Valeo driven, one-dollar, one-vote, plutocratic society?
Free air time? So what’s McCain saying now... since he’s running for office and needs big media’s blessing? As for democracy and the people, could we even hear a debate about such a proposal on corporate media? The major media blackout of such issues gives you a true picture of our media enclosure in the corporate state.
Killed in committee and blacked out in the all too fascist media is still the likely result... due to "our" representatives fear of the media. And you thought these media moguls were the fourth estate?
To give you a better idea of the ballooning election costs, the four leading presidential candidates spent more on the Iowa primary race than John Kerry spent on his entire presidential ad campaign in 2003 and 2004, and Mitt Romney could have done a lot of good with those ego-tinged millions he wasted on his media buys.
Barack Obama, due both to the internet and his unusual appeal, is a rare exception to the fact that only the rich, or corporate fed, can afford to run for office. But wait until the "swift boat" brigade of backward billionaires gets going on our airwaves – there’s no limit on that spending – and that’s when the cry for public media time should reach a crescendo.
In general, as election races gets closer and tougher, they also get dirtier and require more reactive spending - a scum-bag process the media itself feeds and, gee, it just happens to feed their coffers. More of the un-ending he said-she said campaign advertising equals big profits not for the public but for a very few. So do we nationalize campaign advertising profits, or, get adequate amounts of free media time?
We need to consider here that it has been national policy since the 1920s that radio and TV broadcasters should give something back to the public for the use of the airwaves. This policy is becoming ever more necessary every election cycle and surely is needed by the public. From a candidate’s perspective as well, the absurdly high cost of reaching the public not only stifles democratic debate but also scares off many potential candidates from running. What could be worse?