Broadcasters Fighting Parts of DISCLOSE Act
In response to the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision earlier this year, Democrats are now pushing legislation designed to limit the influence of corporate money on federal elections — the very thing that the High Court had relaxed. But don’t go telling the country’s radio and television stations what’s good for democracy. Indeed, the National Association of Broadcasters is gearing up to fight provisions of the bill they fear will cut into profits.
The bill would require television, cable and radio outlets to offer the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee and other political party committees the same deeply discounted price – the “lowest unit rate,” in industry jargon – that television stations are now required to offer only to political candidates. Although advertising rates fluctuate dramatically, veteran media buyers estimate that candidates’ campaigns often pay two-thirds of the retail price that regular television advertisers such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola pay.
“NAB is reviewing the bill,” spokesman Dennis Wharton said in a statement April 29. “We would have concerns with provisions in the legislation that would expand the lowest unit rate discounts now afforded federal candidates to political parties and political committees.”
What’s strange about that position is that, while the Democrats’ bill would force reduced rates for some groups, broadcasters, post-Citizens United, remain in a position to reap enormous profits from an increase in political ads from companies and interest groups — organizations that will be paying the full price for the air time.
While we’re on the topic of corporate influence over Congress, it’s worth noting that the National Association of Broadcasters is now headed by Gordon Smith, former GOP senator from Oregon.