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While "voters' time" has merit, this approach does not solve the
problems inherent in the technical and economic limitations of broadcast TV, and has generated considerable opposition on this basis. In addition, the problems of eligibility, use, and especially allocation have proved difficult to resolve. The emergent telecommunication channels--such as cable television-
make it possible to overcome the technical and economic limitations. And
cybernetics 50 can help show how cable and other emergent channels could be
used so as to improve the political campaign process.
of course, full equality of access for every candidate, even if
possible, might well be harmful. While opportunity for expression and right of
access to communication forums are essential to democratic politics, the
political communication system must also keep social stability in balance with
social change. Unlimited political communication can lead to communication overload, distortion, and stress which in turn could have an adverse effect on the political system itself.
What follows below is an exploratory application of cybernetics for
the allocation of cable television access time to congressional candidates so
as to achieve an optimal balance between stability and change, incumbents and
challengers, the "ins" and the "outs."51 The idea proposed here is to move
5°Defined as the science of communication and control in both human and machine systems; also known as the science of organized social complexity. See, for example, Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (New York: Doubleday, 1954), and Charles R. Dechert, ed., The Social Impact of Cybernetics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966).
5 The allocation methodology is based on the "modified thermodynamic imperative," a cybernetic hypothesis which suggests that the optimum balance between stability and change (order and freedom) in society can be achieved in part by maximizing the entropy of communication (known as negentropy). For extensive technical discussion, see Frederick Bernard Wood, Communication Theory in the Cause of Man 1 and 2 (1971, 1972).
from the present "equal time" rule,” which is clear-cut but tends to result
in the provision of little or no time to political candidates and thereby
restrict political communication, to the concept of "representative time."
Under a "representative time" provision, eligibility might be defined in terms of those legally qualified candidates who (1) represent a political party whose candidate placed first or second in the previous election, (2) represent a political party recording a specified percentage of the total vote in the previous election, (3) receive a designated level of support in voter opinion polls, or (4) gather a given number of voter signatures as evidence of an acceptable minimum level of support.53
Candidates qualifying under these eligibility rules might then be allocated free time according to specified formulas. For example, one-half of the total time available could be alloted on a major-minor-third party proportional basis to assure adequate exposure for candidates of the organized political entities. The other half of the time could be allocated
on an individual probability basis to guarantee at least some exposure for
52 The "equal time" rule requires that TV stations afford equal broadcasting or cablecasting opportunity to all candidates for any particular public office. That is, the same amount of commercial time must be made available at the same price (or free, if public service time) to all candidates for the same public office. Due largely to technical and economic limitations of broadcast television, broadcast stations generally end up providing relatively little time. For discussion, see generally Minow, Presidential Television; U.S., Senate, Federal Election; and National Association of Broadcasters, Political Broadcast Catechism (Washington, D.C.: NAB, 1972). Statutory authority is Sec. 315 of the Communications Act of 1934, which empowers the Federal Communications Commission to administer the "equal time" provision.
»Scriteria of eligibility derived from Michael J. Baker, "Constitutional Remedy for the High Cost of Broadcast and Newspaper Advertising in Political Campaigns," California Law Review 60 (September 1972): 1414; and U.S., House, Clean Elections, pp. 27-28.
As illustrated in Figure Six, allocation on a party proportional basis favors the established and majority political interests while allocation
on an individual probability basis favors the independent and minority political interests. Thus the total combined allocation is intended to provide
an equitable and efficient balance of representation between established
majority and independent-minority political expression and exposure.
In the example of Figure Six, 20 hours is the total "representative
time" available over cable origination channels for a particular congressional
general election campaign. One-half of the total--10 hours--is allocated
among party candidates in direct proportion to each party's percentage of the
total vote in the previous general election. Thus, major party candidate A
receives five hours based on party A's 50% of the total vote, major party
candidate B receives three hours based on a 30% vote, and so forth.54
The other 10 hours is allocated among all candidates--both party and independent--according to each individual's weighted probability of support as measured by voter opinion polls or number of voter signatures collected. The effect of the weighting factor is to partially offset the advantage accruing to major party candidates from the proportional allocation.
54Formulas for the Figure Six allocation of cable access time are: Total "representative time" allocated to each candidate = Ti = vily + PiTo where: Vi = percentage vote of candidate's party in last election
Ty = aT = time available for party proportional allocation
a = fraction allocated on a party proportional basis = 0.5 v Ty = proportional time allocated to each party candidate
Pi = candidate's support probability as measured by polls or signatures
Figure Six. Illustrative Allocation of Cable
TV Access Time to Congressional Candidates
Individual Weighted Probability Allocation
0.066 0.034 0.34 0.005 0.038 0.020
A. major party
100.0 10.0 1.000 / 1.930 1.000 10.00 20.00 **Percentage vote of each candidate's party out of the total vote in the preceding election.
*Support probability measured by voter preference polls or the number of signatures collected by the
Party Proportional Individual Probability Total Combined
Source: See n. 54(text) for allocation formulas; allocation methodology based on Frederick Bernard Wood, "The Use of Cybernetics to Solve An Employee Communication Problem," in Careers and the MBA, ed. Fred B. Wood (Boston: Harvard Business School, 1970), pp. 43-47, and "Allocation of Supplementary Public Exhibit Space By Negentropy of Membership Statistics," Communication Theory in the cause of Man 1 (August/September 1970): 9-11. Under the weighted probability allocation, minor party candidate D
with an 8% level of support receives 1.51 hours, independent candidate E with
only 3% support receives 0.79 hour, and so on. By comparison, major party candidate A with 45% support receives but 2.69 hours. Of course, when the proportional and weighted probability allocations are combined, in this example the two major party candidates together still get more than 65% of the total time available. But the net effect is to maintain a balance of representation which makes efficient use of the available time while guaranteeing
an equitable allocation among majority, minority, and independent candidates.
A final aspect of "representative time" is the conditions of use.
Use here should be restricted to formats which are "intended to promote
rational discussion, illuminate campaign issues, and give the voter insights
into the abilities and personal qualities of the candidates," and which avoid
"excesses, deception, distortion, fraud, and exaggeration in campaign
tactics."55 It might even be reasonable to require that some portion of the
total time be used in a debate format with opposing candidates and in a
discussion format with community and news media representatives.
This approach to eligibility, allocation, and use would obviously be more complex to administer than the current "equal time" practice. But, as Figure Six and the foregoing discussion are intended to demonstrate, the concept of "representative time" can be hammered down into specific and work
able terms which are likely to become increasingly feasible, either via the
current or an expanded broadcast television system or when cable television
achieves significant penetration into the political marketplace.
550.s., House, Clean Elections, pp. 20-24; Mickelson, p. 105.