The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Kerry - and Mrs Kerry - on the networks
Great little piece yesterday in the Madison Capital-Times - erstwhile doughty warrior against Joseph McCarthy - with one of the zillion Kerry interviews that are about.
The lede (buried in graf 3) is that, unlike his opponent, Kerry is an avid newspaper reader. Wow! Cap Times really gone downhill recently, eh?
The real object of the exercise was to let Kerry have a pop at the networks for dissing his Boston circus. Enjoy the passive voice  in this:
When it was mentioned that many Americans had expressed disappointment with the decision of the nation's broadcast television networks to air only three hours of Democratic convention coverage, Kerry said:
Now, it's strange but true that, in the home of capitalism, the broadcasting wave-bands worth (I suspect) a billion or more dollars a year are provided for free . Why is that? Isn't it a breach of the government's fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the taxpayer?
Well, of course, in the past, there was such a thing as the fairness doctrine - and one could argue - just - that the airwave giveaway was a legitimate subsidy to support a (relatively) impartial medium for the discussion of public issues that would otherwise not exist.
Kerry's line to the networks might be: you had your chance to show (in the Convention coverage) a willingness to sacrifice immediate profit for public responsibility, and you blew it. So any sort of quid pro quo on free bandwidth is clearly off the table. If the government planned to dispose of millions of acres of public lands, and decided to give them away for nothing, the writs would be flying like confetti: the same should be true with the broadcasting spectrum.
Of course, that's 100% pure druther: even though the industry made a poor fist of holding off Congressional opposition to the FCC's 2003 rules on media concentration, I can't see their fight against bandwidth charging being quite so lack-lustre. And then there would be the special breaks needed for NPR and other non-profits.
Besides, I suspect that the broadcasters are constitutionally protected from having their licences removed or made subject to additional conditions without the payment of full compensation. I did say druther, didn't I?
Now, reading the first part of the piece, you'd have thought it was Kerry fielding questions solo. However,
Asked if he thought the decision of the networks to downplay the coverage of the convention sent a signal to Americans not to take what happened in Boston seriously, Kerry said, "I don't know if it's that message or not. I think most Americans are smart enough to understand."
Will they be doing White House press conferences together, I wonder?
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