The Theft of the Airwaves


One of the sanest proposals put forward in the campaign financing debate was the idea of all licensed television stations being required to provide free air time to candidates. The elimination of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each election cycle on TV ads would have gone a long way towards alleviating the overwhelming necessity of political candidates to go begging for and accepting huge sums in virtual bribes from disreputable or simply greedy individuals, Corporations and PACs. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court at one time ruled that the air waves belong to the people.

Well, you can now completely forget the voters having any such leverage towards returning any measure of honesty to government in this way. The nation's television broadcasters last year bought enough politicians and influence to get legislation passed, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently in the process of implementing, which removes any incentive whatsoever for broadcasters to agree to assist in making politics any less dirty. This private sector giveaway (Corporate Welfare at its most cataclysmic) is one of the largest gifts ever given from your government out of your pocket to any special interest. What was this largess that you, as a taxpayer, will be bankrolling?

Each television station in America will receive, free, the use of a second broadcast frequency in order to telecast tomorrow's digital signal technology. The corporations argued that this giveaway was the only method to coax them to offer this technology, once it becomes available. Could a free market auction of these frequencies been held that would still have insured a profit for the corporations while actually putting some money into the U.S. Treasury instead of the pockets of corporations and politicians? Of course. This way, however, the broadcasters not only received billions in Welfare but will still receive the hundreds of millions in revenue from these same politicians every election cycle. Pretty darned profitable for them, don't you think?

Nevertheless, the government completely gave away what was estimated to be at least $70 BILLION DOLLARS worth of federal assets. Now, why, you might ask, would our trusted friends in Washington, D.C. rip-off the citizens of this nation in this obscene and overt manner? If you said fear, money and power, you are absolutely correct.

Candidates for Congress in 1996 received over $850,000 from the National Association of Broadcasters and were the target of a $500,000 public-relations campaign aimed at convincing them that swindling the nation's populace was in the politician's best interest Also, let's not forget the prophetic words of Gigi Sohn, executive director of the Media Access Project, "Individual broadcasters control a politician's access to the airwaves. That's the power to elect or re-elect a politician. They all feel that keenly".

Just how much was the revenue worth that was stolen from the American public by this scam? Why, just $260 per taxpayer. Another way to view it is that this lost income could have run the FBI for 10 years. Of course, my favorite comparison is that all forms of public (as opposed to Corporate) Welfare in 1995 was only $72 Billion. In other words, in one fell swoop, your self-serving, greedy, hypocritical representatives gave away, to a small group of awe-inspiringly wealthy Corporations and individuals, enough of your taxes to give about eleven months of assistance to every woman and child who was receiving Welfare in 1995.

Do you think old Rush Limbaugh will be upset at this new Welfare scam? Do you think the religious right will be up in arms about the taxes "forced" from them to pay for this? Will Newt Gingrich or Trent Lott demand Congressional hearings into who is responsible for this catastrophe? Will this create a huge increase in the number of conservatives writing "Letters to the Editor" demanding that these "Welfare Queens" be stopped and put in jail for stealing from the American system? Or do you figure, as I do, that the majority of the right wing of today will decide that, since it isn't benefiting any of those horrid Welfare women or children, it just isn't something to get too concerned about?

Frankly, I suppose that the whole thing will blow over without so much as a warm gust of wind from our "leaders" or the vast majority of voters. For reasons I firmly believe I shall never comprehend, the average American voter can only seem to get excited about destroying programs that benefit the poor and children and could not care less about being ripped off by the very wealthy. It reminds me of a chicken house where those hens in the middle of the pecking order delight in inflicting misery and pain on those lower in the chain while showing absolute subservience to those above. Maybe America needs to replace the Bald Eagle with the Rhode Island Red?

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