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Saturday, January 30, 2010

 
Nowhere To Say It

by digby


John at Crooks and Liars raises an interesting question about the probable results of the Citizens United case: what happens when all the expensive free speech is bought and there's none left for the rest of us?
I've had some experience with trying to buy ad space during elections, and as the days creep closer to one, the ad space becomes more expensive, for the most part. At least in my experience.

My question is what happens when Big Corp decides to buy up the last month, or two or three, of available ad space on all major media outlets for a particular election? That would have an incredible impact on either an election or like we have in California, a proposition. We saw what happened when the Mormons bought up a ton of air time in California to oppose Prop. 8.

I suppose the standard answer to that will be that there are a lot of cable networks out there, and there's the internet, so there's nothing to worry about, but I think it really does set up a problem. In our virtual town square, where every person, community group and corporation has the same right to speak, there are varying degrees of space and time in which to do it. If the corporations are allowed to buy up all the rows in the front and all the time slots before the vote is taken, it's pretty clear that the right to exercise free speech is being restricted. It seems to me that the right of free speech, particularly political speech, must contain the right to have your words heard as much as the right to speak them, or it doesn't add up to much.

Anyway, on practical terms, the fact is that TV ads are very expensive and there are only so many of them to go around. In states like California they are virtually the only way people hear about elections since there is no political press and no coverage on the news. It's always been a problem and is going to get worse with the ruling, as we get closer to the election and all the slots get bought out ahead of time. It's not impossible to see a scenario in which wealthy interests could simply buy up all the TV time in advance and have an election in which most people only hear one side of the story.

I don't have an answer for what to do about it except to advocate the standard progressive solution --- publicly financed campaigns. It seems to be more remote than ever but we should keep trying.

Oh, and let's try to impeach Roberts and Alito too. Just for fun.


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