Poll: Welfare Queens Owe the U.S. Public
Now that politicians have given TV station owners over $100 billion in free broadcast spectrum (airwave rights), a few experts are noticing that the American people think that deal -- the largest welfare handout in history -- stinks! Here are some poll results showing support for a wimpy, voluntary "code" that places a few small obligations on the welfare queens, the TV station owners, in return for their special privilege. The Progress Report would prefer that we simply auction off the airwave rights in a free market, and use the billions of dollars to offset taxes -- but instead, you and I continue to pay to subsidize Cadillacs and cigars for the world's biggest welfare queens.
BENTON FOUNDATION, PROJECT ON MEDIA OWNERSHIP RELEASE POLL ON AMERICAN ATTITUDES ABOUT TV PROGRAMMING, PUBLIC INTEREST OBLIGATIONS IN THE DIGITAL AGE
WASHINGTON, DC -- As commercial broadcasters embark on the transition to digital television, Americans are in favor of asking them to do more in return for the free use of public airwaves, according to poll results released today by the Benton Foundation and the Project on Media Ownership (PROMO).
The survey, done by Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates, found that the majority of Americans would like to see more educational programming for both children and adults, a reduction in the number of commercials during children's television shows, and financial support from broadcasters to support public television and non-commercial programming.
On the eve of the digital transition, however, the public has little understanding of what digital TV will mean to them. Seventy-one percent of Americans have no idea that broadcasters receive free access to the airwaves to provide digital television. Once they learned that broadcasters are given free access to the airwaves, there is considerable support (54 percent) for charging broadcasters for additional airwaves they may need -- especially if the money is used for more educational programming. Eighty percent favor broadcasters meeting additional public service obligations such as more children's educational programming and more local programming.
Last month, the Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters, known as the Gore Commission, developed a set of new public interest obligations for broadcasters as the television industry moves into the digital age. Recommendations included mandating more educational and children's programs. The FCC is expected to review the Commission's report next month.
"To the American public, better television doesn't mean prettier pictures or better sound, it means more access to educational programming for children and adults, programming on local issues, and interactive data services for schools," said Larry Kirkman, executive director of the Benton Foundation. "As we move the recommendations of the Gore Commission to the FCC and Congress, the public asks broadcasters to address TV's potential to educate. It is the right of Americans to ask for this programming in return for use of a valuable public resource. This is an historic opportunity for broadcasters to reform television."
Mark Crispin Miller, executive director of PROMO, added: "We found that most Americans are in the dark about what digital TV might really offer them, and that most folks aren't happy with the status quo, once they learn the facts about it. When they found out that the airwaves are public property, worth billions, and that the broadcasters pay absolutely nothing for them, most of those polled expressed quite strong support for a mandatory code of public service obligations. Most people think the broadcasters should give the public something back -- like educational and local programming. As the FCC reviews the rules, it should pay close attention to this public sentiment."
Kirkman and Miller were joined at the briefing by Gigi Sohn, executive director of the Media Access Project, Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Media Education (CME), and Mark Lloyd, executive director of the Civil Rights Forum (CRF).
Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates designed and administered the national survey of 1,150 adults, including a base national random sample of 850 adults and oversamples of 150 African-American and 150 Hispanic respondents. All interviews were conducted via telephone by professional interviewers from December 8 through December 10, 1998. The margin of error for this sample survey is +/4.4 percentage points.
For more information about the poll results or the Gore Commission's recomendations please visit
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