In a new paper marking the January anniversary of the
Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Free Press says that broadcasters
have abetted monied political interests in "poisoning Democratic
The report, "Citizens Inundated," says that while
broadcasters have been collecting big bucks from the Super PACS created by the
decision to allow direct funding by corporations and unions of electioneering
ads in federal races, they have been cutting back on the news.
"Even as these stations are getting rich on Super PAC
spending, they are cutting newsroom staff and doing little of the sort of
reporting on government and politics that could help cut through the
misinformation in attack ads," says the report.
Free Press wants the FCC to require stations to publicize
their political ad take and to have to identify on-air the entities funding
PACS rather than simply the names of the PACS themselves. "Bad media
policy is the direct root of this problem," says Free Press. It also wants
the FCC to tighten local media ownership rules, including counting joint
operating agreements toward local ownership limits.
The FCC is currently considering how to update those rules,
and has tentatively concluded that the local caps should remain in place, but
there should be some loosening of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban
and elimination of the radio-TV cross-ownership ban. Free Press says it should
instead "curtail" cross-ownership.
The commission has asked whether it should count joint
station agreements toward its ownership limits, signaling it might take that
Press apparently believes there's too little election coverage, a
premise that seems shaky given the political discourse, debates and
candidate coverage that Americans see and hear every
day on many broadcast stations," said National Association of
Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.
more troubling is that Free Press cites discredited research as the
basis for additional rules on broadcasting. This 'research' only counts
political coverage that occurs during the
narrow timeframe of weekday evening newscasts, thus ignoring campaign
coverage on morning news programs, noon news, weekend public affairs
shows, televised debates, State of the Union speeches and political
coverage on local broadcast station Websites. By
embracing past studies that ignore the totality of our campaign
coverage, Free Press demonstrates a disturbing intellectual dishonesty
reminiscent of their previous attacks on broadcasting."
For its part, a representative from Hearst pointed to that
company's biennial pledge of at least 12 minutes per day of campaign-centered coverage.