A Little More Regulation, Maybe?
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that NARP—that’s the National Association of Railroad Passengers—is campaigning for Amtrak to increase the frequency of the Cardinal. The train now operates three days a week between New York and Chicago on a route that runs through Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.
A major component to NARP’s effort is three professionally produced radio spots that are being distributed to radio stations strung out in communities along most of the Cardinal’s route. The spots are 30-seconds long and are “public service announcements”—known in the trade as PSAs. That means radio stations are expected to run them free of charge because, as the name implies, the message they contain is considered to be of benefit to the general populace.
From the early days of radio, broadcasters were required to “give back” to their communities in return for use of the public airways—the frequencies which carried their signals. That’s one reason why, for instance, radio stations had hourly newscasts, at least five minutes long. Many stations ran regular editorials, and that’s when the so-called “equal time” regulation kicked in, requiring them to give free air time to opposing views.
Well, those days are gone. They disappeared in 1981 when Congress did away with a lot of the regulations controlling radio and TV stations, including the “equal time” provision and the requirement that they air some public service programming. There is simply no doubt that those rulings have been a contributing factor to the dumbing down of the American public.
All of this relates to NARP’s efforts in advocating a daily Cardinal because our volunteers are reporting that more than a few radio stations simply said they would not air NARP’s public service announcements. I’m sorry, but that angers me. These stations—several feature exclusively “Christian” programming, by the way—apparently feel no sense of responsibly to the broader community.
Well, they damn well should. And if they won’t do it on their own, then I’m all for regulations requiring them to do it.