Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Crack At The Political Ad Problem

A while back I floated the idea of banning political ads on TV, because it's the single biggest eater of money in political campaigns (and consequently the reason why politicians have to rely on special interest donations to get elected) and because the issues are never adequately covered in 30 second spots. And I admitted that banning is an imperfect solution because there are obvious free speech problems.

So okay, I've taken the bill into committee and come back with a watered down compromise: Allow television advertising, but no political ad can be less than 15 minutes in length.

What are the advantages? The most obvious one is that it prevents the advertiser from picking a single lie and jamming it into your cranium every hour all day long. Instead, at worst a political advertiser (this would be for people AND propositions) could attempt to get 15 minutes a day in prime time, and even if they repeated the single lie in that slot, most people would note the message and switch channels after a few minutes. Probably in order to hold your attention the slot would have to go into detail, which is fine because there is nothing in politics that can be summed up in 30 seconds. 15 minutes is inadequate too of course, but it's a start.

And since there is practically nothing on American TV that starts or ends on the 15-minute mark, programmers would probably book a slot of two ads, hopefully opposing. Or one advertiser would buy the full half hour. Or a whole hour, in Obama's case. Yes, I'm talking about infomercial programming here. And this is another reason why this compromise is easier to swallow than my original plan: it doesn't yank a huge revenue stream from the TV industry. Also a half hour of television shouldn't be any more expensive than 8 minutes of it. Typically that's how much commercial time a network sells, and they could charge half that because they don't have to support the expense of that troublesome sitcom that they put between the ads.

You could argue that this would be bad for ratings, but if it's a choice between ACCORDING TO JIM and competing bond measures, I'm flipping a coin.

The main problem with this compromise is that it doesn't save enough money. At first. But honestly, this kind of advertising wouldn't be nearly as effective (i.e. wouldn't sucker as many potential voters) and therefore would gradually be dropped in favor of internet advertising, which is at least cheaper. Again, at first. But in the big picture, probably a lot of people who vote now wouldn't be bothered to next time? Is this bad? Not if it's birthers. Not if it's people who think Bush was behind 9/11. It's just like the stock bubble - most of the problems were caused by people investing who had no idea what they were doing. You should know a little before you vote.

Okay, so that's that idea out there. Anybody have anything to add?


Publius said...

I have no problem with any ads for politicians. TV, Radio, Internet, let 'em have all they want. Any time, any place.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how the cost boils down, but it may be much much harder for some smaller campaigns to manage to pay for the larger spots. I don't think that is a BAD thing, maybe, but it's certainly something to consider. It seems, if you are talking about two opposing ads, that implies both politicians can afford to compete at that level. I dunno, it's just something to consider. It might be unfair.

-D. Ray Morton

Danielk said...

Small campaigns and unequal spending is a problem that currently exists, and this proposal is no solution for it. The best I can say is that if people are relying on televsion advertising for their political guidance, I can't help 'em.

No one can.