Open Letter from the Texas Free Air Time Coalition
|For Immediate Release:|
For More Information Contact:
|February 10, 2003|
Craig McDonald, 512-472-9770
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4304
Dear Senator Hutchison:
Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) will soon introduce the Political Campaign Broadcast Activity Improvements Act. The bill is designed to increase the flow of political information on the broadcast airwaves and to cut the cost of campaigns. It would reduce the demand for special interest money, enhance the value of small dollar donations, strengthen political parties, shore up the ailing presidential public financing system and provide citizens with more electoral choices. We are writing to urge you to become an original co-sponsor of this bill.
The McCain-Feingold-Durbin broadcast bill, which was introduced at the end of the 107th Congress as S. 3124, amends the Communications Act of 1934 by:
* Requiring that television and radio stations, as part of the public interest obligation they incur when they receive a free broadcast license, air at least two hours a week of candidate-centered or issue-centered programming during the period before elections.
* Enabling qualifying federal candidates and national parties to receive up to $750 million worth of broadcast vouchers that can be used to place political advertisements on television and radio stations in each two year election cycle. The voucher system will be financed by a spectrum use fee of not more than one percent of the gross annual revenues of broadcast license holders.
* Closing the loopholes in the lowest unit cost provision in order to ensure that candidates receive the same advertising rates that stations give to their high-volume, year-round advertisers.
The cost of political advertising has skyrocketed in the past two decades and has played a major role in driving up the cost of political campaigns. In 2002, candidates, parties and issue groups spent about $1 billion on political ads, more than doubling the amount spent during the midterm election of 1998. In Texas, political ad costs exceeded $100 million during the 2002 election cycle, one of the highest figures in the country. At the same time, local stations devoted little news and public affairs coverage to the campaigns. The escalating costs of campaigns drives out many potential candidates and requires those running for office to spend more of their time raising money often from special interests.
In an editorial in November, the San Antonio Express-News declared support for this legislation, calling the current system “an unspeakably expensive, voter-offensive orgy of paid advertising that mocks the obligation of a self-governing citizenry to keep itself informed.”
The McCain-Feingold-Durbin legislation addresses these problems by building on the long history of requiring broadcasters to serve the public interest in exchange for the privilege of obtaining free and exclusive licenses to use a scarce public resource: the electromagnetic spectrum.
We the undersigned represent thousands of Texans who want to improve our democracy. We urge you to join in this bipartisan effort and become an original cosponsor.
Campaigns for People
Common Cause Texas
League of Women Voters of Texas
The Maverick Alliance of San Antonio, Alliance for Democracy
Policyholders of America
Public Citizen - Texas
Texans for Public Justice
Texas Campaign for the Environment
Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG)