It would be pointless to delve into the power the TV media holds over elected office due to its deep penetration and ubiquity. It must be used if anyone hopes to enter into public life. Without it, one would need a miracle!
The Senate debates Campaign Reform this week. Senators McCain and Feingold are doing what they can to unplug the Senate and House from their source of funds. I don't think this type of political hara-kiri is going to succeed.
Given that the media holds such power over our democracy, and that our political system is in jeopardy due to the high costs of campaigning, which is due to the outrageous campaign costs that result from the cost of TV time, why don't we approach the problem form a new perspective.
Lets get the TV media face up to their responsibilities, and allow public access to candidates during electoral campaigns. This type of arrangement works quite well in other nations, even in so-called developing countries. Why should we be beholden to media barons for our political life?
The media must be held accountable to the public, since it is a medium which is licensed by the public, be it by way of a bandwidth license, or by a local cable TV monopoly. It is the end of their free ride, and the beginning of our freedom from the power of money.
In fact, they decide who will become a viable candidate, by in effect locking out otherwise worthy contenders due to the high cost of television time.
How the public access time will be parceled out depends on the actual political reality. We must insure that only the People will have the ultimate power in allocating TV time. Money will be of no use, only the message will be important.
A scientific electronic precinct census can be used to guide the media in parceling out time. The census, similar to the current Nielsen rating system, could even be taken on a daily basis by precinct, and would yield the actual political levels for the precinct. All other allocation would be derived from this elementary precinct census, by accruing precincts into districts and so on.
It is high time that we rescue our political system from the power of television. The founding fathers certainly did not envision that they had to pay outrageous sums of money in order to reach the People, at a time when the only media were newspapers, pamphlets, and town meetings, all of them at nominal cost to them.
In fact, if debates hold sway over the results of the precinct political census, then we can well imagine that they would become the most vital of reality shows in vogue today, live Real Politik!
Only the best debaters would be able to get enough time for the following week. One would be able to get rid of the duds much sooner before they do any harm, and get themselves elected in a squeaker.
March 28, 2001
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