Monday, January 23, 2006

Xoff Redux

The dust-up over the Sykes-Holt "spot" on school choice continues as Xoff tries to back and fill on his ill-considered suggestion that editorial comment by a radio station is regulated issue advertising.

The problem is that ... it's not. State law explicitly says that it "shall not be construed to restrict ... editorial comment. Such activities need not be reported as a contribution or disbursement." Don't take my word for it, look here.

While the FCC might be able to require "equal time" or otherwise prohibit this (assuming an old 1968 Supreme Cout decision is good law), it doesn't. So, if the Sykes "spot" is editorial comment, its not in violation of the law.

And if its not editorial comment, what is it? Xoff, who is apparently privy to the platonic ideal of "commercialness" seems to think that if it has the "look and feel of a commercial" then it is regulated.

But that's just nonsense. What difference does it make if Sykes prerecords comments and plays it frequently as opposed to taking to the airwaves and repeating himself. What does it matter if his commentary includes other voices or is set to music - or says "Reagan will rise again" when you play it backwards. It makes no difference.

Nor does the idea that Sykes called it a "spot" - slang used to refer to a paid commercial - mean anything. The unvarnished reality is that the "spot" is not the speech of a third party that is being paid for in a way that the law regulates, but, rather, it is the speech of the station itself. That makes it editorial comment and unrestricted.

Whether or not Charlie Sykes is, as you call him, a shill or whether like minded people are properly characterized as his "bucket brigade", Xoff was wrong. Whether or not Gov. Doyle has been the voice of sweet reason in offering to raise the voucher caps a bit in exchange for tons of new money, we have not yet decided to supress editorial comment by broadcast media.

The sad fact is if they give you the mike at a popular radio station, you have a louder voice than the rest of us. Which is why all this regulation of free speech in the guise of campaign finance reform is so insidious.

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