Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I'm Not Alone

Arun Kapil not only joins me in complaining about the CSA equal time rules (see previous post) but also notes that many others agree, including the CSA itself! For those commenters who said that they prefer the French system, with its punctilious focus on equality, to the American system, where money talks ever more loudly, the comparison is misguided. Yes, the American system is an abomination made even more abominable by the unconscionable Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court and the advent of the despicable super-PACs (see Timothy Noah's excellent article on "Crankocracy"). But the French could do away with strict equality rules without opening the floodgates to torrents of cash.

Another red herring is the contention that if equality is not enforced by law, then "the media" will decide who is worth covering, and the media are--it is taken for granted--biased and corrupt. Or--yet another objection--"the polls will decide," and the polls are not mentioned in the Constitution. Nonsense. Journalists and pollsters are better informed about the issues than the average voter. It's worth drawing on their judgment and experience to bring what matters to the attention of the interested public--which, alas, is only a small fraction of the public that should be interested, but that's another matter. In order to exercise their judgment and professionalism in a responsible way, they need to be given the space in which to do so. That is precisely what the CSA rules do not allow. And why pretend that whatever manipulation of public opinion occupies the 4 years and 9 months between presidential campaigns can effectively be negated by the imposition of equal-time rules during the remaining three months only?

As for the ban on televised political ads in France, loués soient nos seigneurs! If such a blessing were to come to the United States, I would fall to my knees in thanksgiving. Of course the counterargument is that the revenue from these ads helps to sustain the journalism that I think is essential. But it might be useful if reporters ceased following the candidates around like puppy dogs, with their employers picking up the tab, and concentrated on issue-centered reporting instead of horse-race coverage. This would reduce expenses and improve quality at the same time.


Kirk said...

To be precise, television ads are not banned, they are regulated, in that the "official campaign" manages the broadcasting of the ads that the candidates prepare. They are a set length of time, and I assume there are other rules as to how they can be edited, but there are, indeed, TV ads for candidates in both presidential and legislative elections.

Anonymous said...

You can certainly oppose the FEC rules. An abundant literature, on the matter, pro- and con-, has been produced by advocacy groups, lobbies, think tanks, independent groups, non-profits, journalists, bloggers and of course the courts. Ultimately "Citizens United" (as it is called) was adopted through an an open institutional process that ended in dozens of amicus briefs and supreme court opinions by Justices Kennedy and Stevens (dissenting), joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor.

The French rules ("recommendations" , really) in contrast were capriciously, arbitrarily, whimsically decided by an administrative body, the CSA, who provides no support for its findings , only grandiloquent and general pronouncements on "plurality" matched by hyper-precise (to the point of absurdity) punitive decrees. There are no supporting arguments, no dissenting arguments, in fact no arguments whatsoever. There were no public hearings and no legislative oversight (the commission works from a set of principles set by the parliament). No judicial review seems to be forthcoming (not sure if the newly empowered constitutional court can review) . There is no political or institutional recourse. The only possible response seems to be tepid disapproval and meek compliance.