Michael Copps has called on broadcasters to launch a primetime
voting rights PSA campaign to counter what he says have been efforts to
intimidate and suppress voter turnout.
In a letter to National Association of Broadcasters president
Gordon Smith, Copps, a former FCC commissioner and now head of Common Cause's
Media and Democracy Initiative, also asked NAB to encourage stations to focus
additional news coverage on state, county and municipal races.
"I know you and I agree on the importance of doing
everything possible to maximize voter turnout and minimize voter intimidation,
voter suppression, and any other activity that might short-circuit America's
democratic process," he told Smith.
"I know that many broadcasters are working hard to
inform their communities and to discharge their public interest
responsibilities, and I continue to salute those that are doing so," he
said. "But not all stations perform at such levels of excellence.
Now is the time to remind those who are granted stewardship of the public's
airwaves that their highest duty, especially in the days and weeks just ahead,
is to inform and nourish the civic dialogue upon which the vitality of the
United States always depends."
An NAB spokesman decried intimidation and said broadcasters would
continue to educate the public about the elections, but did not comment on a
possible PSA campaign.
"Voter intimidation and voter fraud are wrong," said
NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "NAB encourages all Americans to exercise
their legal right to vote, and we're pleased that broadcasters from coast-to-coast
are dedicating significant time and resources to candidate coverage, debates,
and voter education efforts."
NAB has chronicled some of those efforts here.