THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE CHAIRMAN AND THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
February 5, 1998
Dear Chairman Kennard:
In my State of the Union Address I called upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act to require media outlets to provide candidates with free and discounted airtime for campaign advertising. Free and discounted time will reduce the need for more campaign money, and will allow candidates to spend less time fundraising and more time addressing the concerns of our country.
Spending on congressional campaigns has risen six-fold in the last two decades, more than three times the rate of inflation, and spending on television is the primary reason. In 1970 expenditures on television advertising in congressional campaigns totaled $50 million. In 1996 that number had risen to $400 million. The evidence at the beginning of this election year is that the cost of media spending by candidates for public office will continue to spiral upward. We must address the reason for the explosion in campaign costs.
The dawning of the digital age of broadcasting makes it imperative that we update broadcasters' public interest obligation. Broadcasters have been loaned an additional channel worth billions of dollars for free. The FCC must ensure that broadcasters, given the opportunity to benefit from their use of a valuable public resource, use this public resource to strengthen our democracy.
Free and discounted television time can make our most powerfully effective medium a powerful force for expanding democracy in the information age. I call upon the Commission to develop policies, as soon as possible, which ensure that broadcasters provide free and discounted airtime for candidates to educate voters.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
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