Apr. 13th, 2012

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This week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a ban on political ads for public television and radio stations by a vote of 2-1. The reason given was that "the ban was too broad" and they felt that lifting it would "not threaten to undermine the educational nature of public broadcast stations." Interestingly, the court upheld the ban on ads for goods and services on behalf of for-profit companies.

This is going to have huge ramifications for NPR and PBS, should they allow these ads on their radio/television stations. Because, of course, striking down the ban only means that they are not prevented from accepting the ad...not that they are required to accept them.

But the real problem I have is with the reasoning that the court used, that the decision would not threaten to undermine the educational nature of the stations. Education requires honesty. You can't have a teacher lie to their students about science, math, etc and expect those students to be educated...only confused. And there's a difference between different points of view and outright lying...lying is about knowingly representing the facts wrong.

But political ads can outright lie to you. It's actually ensconced in the law through the Federal Communications Act (US Code: Title 47, Sec 315 - Candidates for public office) and upheld by the courts. So how can the educational nature of these stations not be undermined by promoting advertising that will outright lie to the people who hear and/or see them?

Worse, this will also require that the hosts of various programs on these stations will need to fact check the ads on their own stations, in fact challenging their truthfulness. The result will be stations that may be reticent to do so because they might lose funding from these advertisements because they exposed the lies in the ads.

Please contact your local PBS and NPR stations and tell them that you don't want political ads aired on their stations. For most of them, they are either in Spring Pledge-drive time or have just finished them. If you haven't pledged an amount, pledge now, and tell them it's because they DON'T place political ads. Support them, so that they don't start supporting the political machine.

It's not their job.

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