In the theme song for my documentary film, Broadcast Blues, there’s a lyric: “And if you stand up to the FCC, all you hear back is BFD!”
It’s been six weeks now since I filed a formal complaint with the FCC on behalf of citizens of Wisconsin. In short, the Media Action Center found that, during the Scott Walker recall campaign, five local Conservative Talk Radio hosts in Milwaukee were promoting Scott Walker on the air, even recruiting volunteers for him, all the while bashing his opponent Tom Barrett. The two stations gave about a million bucks in free airtime to Walker and the GOP (and none to Barrett and the Democrats) on the radio airwaves we ALL own.
There’s an obscure rule at the FCC called the Zapple Doctrine which says in the 60 days prior to an election, if a broadcaster sells time to supporters of one candidate, they have to sell time to the other side. It doesn’t explicitly deal with free time, as when this was contemplated in 1970, it was thought ridiculous that any radio station would offer significant amounts of free time to one political party without also offering time to the other. (Times sure have changed.)
In a perfect world, the FCC would have immediately decided this case, so Barrett supporters would have gained access to the microphones during the recall campaign. But it is a Constitutional case we’ve launched, and these things do take more than just a couple of weeks to decide.
But six weeks have gone by, and we really need a decision by mid-August, so radio talk show hosts in Milwaukee and everywhere else will know what rules they need to follow in the upcoming general election. (Can you hear Rush Limbaugh howling over having to actually give comparable time to Obama supporters?) They will complain that we are infringing on their First Amendment rights, while in reality, by preventing access to the powerful microphones, they are infringing on OUR First Amendment rights.
Please sign the petition to the FCC and show your support – now, while there’s still time to make an impact on the 2012 general election! Free speech for ALL on our publicly owned airwaves during campaign periods!