Television and Elections

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9780898431247: Television and Elections
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The subject of Television and Elections, 2nd Edition is "Television in Politics." The book contains information on informing the electorate, news coverage of elections, the issue of free television time for candidates, paid political advertising, campaign and election debates, and regulation.

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About the Author:

Ellen Mickiewicz is the James R. Shepley Professor of Public Policy Studies, Professor of Political Science, and Director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University. A specialist on media and politics, especially in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Central Europe, she is also a fellow of the Carter Center. Her most recent book, Changing Channels, published by Oxford University Press in 1997, is a study of the role and impact of television from the end of the Soviet Union through the election of the first post-Soviet Russian Federation president, from 1985 to 1996. Dr. Mickiewicz was the first American to be honored by the 120,000-member Journalists Union of Russia for her contribution to the development of democratic media in the area. She is the author or editor of five other books and numerous journal articles.

Charles M. Firestone is the Executive Vice President of The Aspen Institute for Policy Programs. He has been with the Institute since December 1989 and also serves as Executive Director of the Communications and Society Program. As Executive Vice President, Mr. Firestone oversees seventeen Institute policy programs and is responsible for the Institute's International Partnerships in France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. The policy programs are nonpartisan convenors of diverse leaders who address significant issues of the day through values-based dialogue and research.

Laura Roselle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Elon College, received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University. Specializing in the role of television in politics, she has worked as Assistant Director for International Communications Programs at The Carter Center. Dr. Roselle has done extensive research on Soviet/Russian politics, studying the role of television in the parliamentary election campaigns of 1993 and 1995 and the presidential campaign of 1996. Her most recent publication was the chapter "Television and the Campaign" in Growing Pains: Russian Democracy and the Election of 1993, edited by Timothy Colton and Jerry Hough.

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Chapter 1
Informing the Electorate

In democratic countries, it is understood that television ought to inform the electorate. If this is done well, two processes can be assisted: first, informed potential voters will be drawn to participate and actually go out to vote and, second, votes from knowledgeable citizens will contribute to a more favorable outcome for the country as a whole.

When addressing the relationship of television to elections, policy makers need to consider three distinct, often competing interests: (1) the candidate's interest in reaching the electorate, (2) the television station's interest as journalist and medium of expression, and (3) the public's interest in receiving the information necessary to participate knowledgeably in an election. As these interests clash, the policy maker needs to balance them in a fair and "democratic" way. Often, however, the dilemma can be expressed simply as: which interest is paramount in a particular situation?

For example, if during an election a candidate wants access to television to present a position on, say, unemployment, should the station be required to provide time even if the station believes that the candidate is not telling the truth? Should it have to sell time to a candidate if it does not want to? What if the speaker is not the candidate but a supporter? Do the answers differ if a candidate wants to attack an opponent's personal character?

The results will differ, depending on whose interest is paramount. If the laws are aimed at enhancing competition in an election, they might favor a limited right of candidate access to television to say whatever he or she wants. In the United States, candidates for federal office have the right to purchase uncensored time on a television station. If the interests of a free and autonomous press are paramount, then the station will have to decide whom to allow on the station, and for what purpose. The printed press in the United States has that right; a newspaper cannot be forced to print something if it chooses not to do so.

Finally, if the audience interest is paramount, the determination is much more complicated. The public's interest in being informed can be construed variously. To consider that the public interest is best served by making available as much information as possible, from whatever sources, is to promote candidate access rights. The public interest in access to the truth might be served by having a variety of independent journalists who, unfettered by government regulation, determine what items will reach the public.

Similar conflicts appear again and again in issues of television coverage of an election. Should a station be required to give candidates free time? Or should time be sold at a low rate? Should it treat all candidates equally? Must it invite candidates to debate if it believes the audience is most interested in only two or three in a field? Should a candidate be pushed into debating on television even if it seems politically disadvantageous? In each case the rights and interests clash. But in each instance, the broader public's interest should be considered.

Whether the system is state-run, commercial, or mixed, there will be questions about news coverage of elections, free time for candidates, paid political advertising, and debates. In this section, we set out a number of strategies and practices that address these questions. By using some real examples from the practices of various countries, and by advancing some proposals, we lay before the reader a menu of options. All policy proposals have positive and negative attributes and opportunity costs. In each case, policy makers must consider the option in light of their own societies, their own tempo of change, and their own resources.

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9780967360515: Television and Elections, 2nd Edition

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ISBN 10:  096736051X ISBN 13:  9780967360515
Publisher: De Witt Historical Society, 1999
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