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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Broadcast Media Company Abuses Public Trust

As an Associated Press story in The Los Angeles Times reports, Pappas Telecasting Cos. has given $325,000 to thirteen Republican Party county committees in California in the form of free airtime. Free airtime for political groups from a company that serves over 15% of U.S. households and makes millions off the public airwaves?

What a great idea!

In its best light, the Pappas political contribution can be seen as a half-step forward in the fight to get the broadcast media to live up to its obligation to the public by offering a few hours of political coverage during elections. In this view, all Pappas has to do is offer the same amount of time to other county committees in the same counties (and preferably to candidates too), and all is well.

At its worst, the $325,000 contribution can be seen as an attempt by a media company to use its control of a share of the public's airwaves to push its own political agenda, a dereliction of its duty to Americans and a stain on our democracy.

Pappas itself recognizes its obligations on its website, despite its seeming ignorance of those very principles:

Our duty is to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity. A
true broadcaster has to perform two roles comfortably: one, that of public
trustee, and the second, that of responsible businessperson. Our business
interests cannot supersede or contravene our duty as public trustee.

Apparently, their political interests are an entirely different matter.

For those who want to nudge Pappas in the right direction, you can write them at: 500 S. Chinowth Rd.Visalia, CA 93277. Or call them at: 559-733-7800. Or fax them at: 559-733-7878.

They don't provide e-mail contact info on their website as far as I can tell, or I'd include that as well.

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