[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 5, 1998]
[Page 182]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Letter to the Chairman and Members of the Federal Communications 
Commission on Free and Discounted Airtime for Campaign Advertising
February 5, 1998

Dear __________:
    In my State of the Union Address I called upon the Federal 
Communications Commission (FCC) to act to require media outlets to 
provide candidates with free and discounted airtime for campaign 
advertising. Free and discounted time will reduce the need for more 
campaign money, and will allow candidates to spend less time fundraising 
and more time addressing the concerns of our country.
    Spending on congressional campaigns has risen six-fold in the last 
two decades, more than three times the rate of inflation, and spending 
on television is the primary reason. In 1970 expenditures on television 
advertising in congressional campaigns totaled $50 million. In 1996 that 
number had risen to $400 million. The evidence at the beginning of this 
election year is that the cost of media spending by candidates for 
public office will continue to spiral upward. We must address the reason 
for the explosion in campaign costs.
    The dawning of the digital age of broadcasting makes it imperative 
that we update broadcasters' public interest obligation. Broadcasters 
have been loaned an additional channel worth billions of dollars for 
free. The FCC must ensure that broadcasters, given the opportunity to 
benefit from their use of a valuable public resource, use this public 
resource to strengthen our democracy.
    Free and discounted television time can make our most powerfully 
effective medium a powerful force for expanding democracy in the 
information age. I call upon the Commission to develop policies, as soon 
as possible, which ensure that broadcasters provide free and discounted 
airtime for candidates to educate voters.

                                                      William J. Clinton

Note: Letters were sent to Chairman William E. Kennard and the other 
members of the Commission. An original was not available for 
verification of the content of this letter.