Experts anticipate that this year the presidential campaign alone will churn out almost $2 billion in spending on advertising. This figure increases every campaign cycle, and is driven this year, in large part, by the increased amount of funding by unaccountable secret superPACs. The question of openness in campaign financing is a moral one--and one that has roots in ancient biblical injunctions about justice as well as the earliest days of the United Church of Christ.
O.C. Inc, the United Church of Christ's historic media justice ministry, has been working to ensure that television stations are accountable to the communities they serve since the civil rights movement in the 1960s. This year, in 2012, we secured an important victory when we persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to put public information about political advertisements online for the first time.
As a result of this work, members of the public will be able to find information about who paid for political advertisements and how much they paid in a public online file at the Federal Communications Commission.
You Can Help
While we won an important victory this year, not all TV stations are required to comply with the new rule in time for the 2012 election cycle. The United Church of Christ is collaborating with an effort conducted by the Sunlight Foundation, Free Press and New America Foundation to bring all the public files online.
Sign up to visit television public files and join the national effort to bring sunshine to political advertising. This project will provide you with all the resources you need to visit a local TV station, make copies of the public file, and share it with the public on the web.
Outraged at the political ads you see on TV?
In addition to putting all the data about political ads online, you will be able to use the information online to find out who is behind superPAC political ads, or any other advertisement. At the UCC we are vocal proponents of civility in elections, and you can use the information you find to speak out against advertisements that violate those principals.
Use the television monitoring worksheet to track political coverage and track advertisements that give you pause. You can use the FCC's database or the Free Press database to see who paid for the ads that make you wonder.
Does the media cover politics or just profit from it?
While television broadcasters make billions of dollars from political advertising, they often fall short in news coverage of the issues that are important to all of us. A great way to make this problem more concrete is to monitor television coverage and advertising during the election season. Your youth group can use this as a tool to discuss what is important (and not important) in making decisions during the campaign season.
Why Do We Care? The History of UCC's Media Justice Advocacy
Back when the UCC was founded in 1957, one of the first things the UCC's Office of Communications did was to begin work on a historic project to improve the coverage of the civil rights movement by television stations in the south. Inspired by a meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the Rev. Everett C. Parker began a campaign that was eventually to earn him the title “father of the broadcast reform movement.”
He took many risks and benefitted from brave volunteers who stood up to the pro-segregationist and often violent interest in Jackson, MS. Through court battles, the UCC was able to establish the right of regular people to hold the television media accountable to the communities they serve.
Imagine it is 1963 and you are working with civil rights leaders in secret. Read more about the history-making UCC media justice ministry and its efforts today.