FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Copp’s Plea for You and Me

The plain-spoken, public-spirited former Federal Communications Commissioner, Michael Copps, is indignant—and for good reason: The FCC is not enforcing the law requiring the “dark money” super PACs and other campaign cash conduits to reveal, on-the-air, the names of the real donors behind all political advertisements, which are now flooding the profitable radio and television airwaves.

It is bad enough that political ads far overwhelm political news stories. One study of the 2014 election campaign found Philadelphia stations gave 45 times more air time to political ads than they devoted to their news stories which were designed to inform viewers about the candidates. Political ads have become a huge cash cow for the television and radio stations that use OUR public airwaves free of charge. We citizens, who are the owners of the public airwaves, receive no rent payment from these tenants. (Thanks to a corrupted Congress!)

As Mr. Copps has written: Viewers watching these ads are provided a nice-sounding name, such as “Paid for by Citizens for Amber Waves of Grain,” and “nothing else, no hint of who put up the money; no clue as to the real agenda behind the message.” They could be chemical companies polluting our water, big arms manufacturers wanting more over-priced government contracts, or banks who are opposed to proper regulation of their consumer-gouging tactics and their risky speculation.

Years ago the FCC declared that the Audiences “are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded.” So why isn’t the FCC enforcing the clear-cut, unambiguous section 317 of the 1934 Communications Act? After all the mass media is regularly writing about dark money, secret money, bought-and paid-for politicians without being able to supply the names of the donors. The FCC could be the agency that gives the voters their right to know.

Earlier this year, the FCC voted to require that cable and radio stations maintain a public file on political advertising. In 2012 the agency required such a public file for broadcast television stations to maintain a database. But still, there are no requirements for disclosing the “true identity” of people, corporations or other entities paying for the ads.

This is what 170 house Democrats demanded that the FCC do in a letter released on January 20, 2016.

Such a demand, and even the knowledge that voters would overwhelmingly approve such openness, are not enough for the cautious FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler. His agency has been sitting on petitions to require disclosure under section 317 for years. In December 2015, the Sunlight Foundation, Common Cause and the Campaign Legal Center filed formal complaints against 18 television stations in four states, asking the Federal Communications Commission to order the stations to comply with this law. Former Commissioner Copps wonders what else the FCC needs before it enforces the law that its five Commissioners have sworn to uphold. Billions of dollars of dark money in this campaign year need to be brought into the sunlight.

Well, as Michael Copps writes, “Broadcasting and cable companies fear that honest ads might lead to fewer ads and less money in their coffers. Corporate and dark money interests hide in the shadows of anonymous attacks. Even our major newspapers shy away from covering this issue, perhaps looking more toward their bottom-line interests than the public interest. Some of them own other media properties…”

Apart from recent exertions on net neutrality, the FCC has been subservient to big media companies and their docile Congressional allies who don’t want to properly enforce the 1934 Communications Act, which stipulates that radio and television broadcasting companies adhere to the legal standard of the “public interest, convenience and necessity” in presenting programming. That standard implies a fair balance between serious content and entertainment/advertisements. The FCC, mercilessly harassed into slumber by members of Congress, has been AWOL from its legal duties.

On the bigger picture Copps writes, “Big money is corrupting our electoral process, strangling our civic dialogue, and endangering American self-government. The agency, the FCC, should respond to the petitions and complaints that have been filed and indicate if it is going to live up to its obligations.” Law and Order anyone?

Interested citizens may weigh in with their views by contacting FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler (as many did effectively on net neutrality) by emailing him at Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov.

The overall subject of media responsibility will be the subject of Day Two (May 24, 2016) of the Super Bowl for Civic Action at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.: Breaking Through Power.

Visit BreakingThroughPower.org for more information.

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail