Everybody wants to know why national politics is so bad, and almost everyone agrees that money is a big part of it. But even if money is the problem, no one is asking how it got that way.
Then, a few days ago I happened upon an article in either the NYTimes or the Washington Post that detailed how much influence college football has over the colleges where they play it, especially Division 1 schools Now I can’t find it but after searching, this one squib will hint at it: Increases in Television Money Boost College Football Coaching Salaries – Forbes
College Football seeks money tor the same reason politics seeks money – influence. And in America influence comes through your TV. Politicians get elected by advertising, and the more they advertise the more likely they will be elected. Gov. Romney won Florida because of his advertising as much as anything else. By one account, The LA Times, TV is the dominant persuasive force.
You spend money to get votes (or viewers in the case of college football) and getting said votes or viewers makes you powerful. That in turn requires even more money to stay there. Those who are successful are rewarded with elected office or lucrative contracts.
Sport and politics are a means to another end, power. And once power is obtained, money keeps you there.
This was always true, but until the advent of cable TV it was limited to a few outlets – NBC, CBS, ABC, and a rag tag of UHF stations. Once cable TV came, and with it more news stations and more channels and a more scattered audience, the places college football teams could be televised and politicians could advertise exploded.
The problem is not money, but the desire for TV time. And with cable or satellite companies now offering hundreds of stations the market is virtually infinite. That’s why only the campaign with the most money can hope to win, because TV is the way people get their political ideas and only those who can saturate TV can hope to prevail.
But there is hope. Instead of limiting money, which is (according to the courts) a form of speech, let’s limit the time available to advertise. Who says TV stations must sell as much time as someone wants to buy?
Yes, I know about the market. But let’s not confuse the market with the forum. Political advertising is like a candidates forum, and when you go, one candidate cannot do all the talking, right? If four candidates showed up and one claimed the right to do all the talking we would say that isn’t fair. How can we choose when only one gets to speak? Or one gets to do most of the talking?
Democracy demands that we give all voices an equal chance to be heard so people can make a reasonable choice. I say, let’s limit the amount of TV political advertising because broadcasters (even cable ones who still send their signals through the air before they get to you) are licensed to broadcast because the airways are publicly owned. They must limit the amount they sell and cannot sell more than a portion of that to any one candidate.
We rightly call it corruption when politicians use public goods for private and partisan advantage. TV and radio and the internet are public byways, essential to the working of democracy. When any one person or party effectively controls them, that is corrupt.
I’m all verklempt from my birthday yesterday. Discuss!