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February 01, 2005

Take Back the Networks Free Spectrum

The major networks rush to give free air time to the President when he makes speeches promoting his agenda. In fact, they are giving him uninterrupted time to lay out his State of the Union agenda.

But grassroots groups can't even buy air time to respond:

An advocacy group, USAction, said on Monday that four television networks had turned down its request to run an advertisement opposing President Bush's effort to clamp down on medical malpractice lawsuits.

The group wanted to run the spots just before Mr. Bush's State of the Union address on Wednesday. But networks said the advertisement violated their standards for advertising on controversial issues.

I can understand the rule. Controversial issues are often unpopular and advertisers don't like running ads near them.

But why are the networks allowed to use public spectrum FOR FREE if they don't serve the public? If they just want to make profit, let them buy spectrum like the rest of the telecommunications industry, or go on cable.

On top of their normal spectrum, the networks were given a mass of free spectrum to convert to digital television, spectrum that would have cost them an estimated $70 billion if they had to pay for it. John McCain has criticized the networks for years for this free subsidy:

The transition to digital television has been a grave disappointment for American consumers and nothing short of a spectrum heist for American taxpayers...The lesson we should have learned from the failure of the 1996 Telecom Act is that the interests of major telecommunications companies and average American consumers are not the same.
So the answer's rather simple. Take the spectrum away and pay off the defict. If the networks can't be bothered to allow grassroots groups to even pay for a response to the President, they sure as hell shouldn't be receiving multi-billion dollar subsidies from the taxpayer.

Posted by Nathan at February 1, 2005 05:52 AM