At this late point in the election season, one would think that the public affairs programs would try especially hard to ensure balance -- or at least strive to avoid the perception of bias. Yet tomorrow, two of the five Sunday shows will allow Republican officials the opportunity to offer their spin without a single Democratic official to counteract them. Kate Phillips has a roundup of tomorrow's schedule over at The New York Times' political blog.
Tim Russert moderates another Senate debate on NBC's "Meet the Press,'' this Sunday between Senator Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent in Missouri, and Claire McCaskill, the Democratic challenger and the state's auditor.
In addition, Mr. Woodward sits down with Mr. Russert as the book whirl over "State of Denial,'' (No. 3 on our new Times poli-book bestseller list released on Friday), takes another turn.
ABC's "This Week'' promises a lively discussion, as George Stephanopoulos features as his guests Representatives Tom Reynolds, the Republican national congressional chairman, and Rahm Emanuel, his Democratic counterpart. With somewhere between 40 and 50 House seats in play, and with Mr. Reynolds at the center of the storm over disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley , the two campaigners-in-chief have more than fundraising on their minds right now. (Read the House state-of-play article by Adam Nagourney as you prepare for the Sunday morning showdown.)
On CBS's "Face the Nation," Congressmen Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia, and Ray LaHood, Republican of Illinois, are sure to have answers ready about their leader, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, and the page scandal shaking up campaigns across the country. "Fox News Sunday" features Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, and retired Maj. Gen. Edward Grillo. CNN's "Late Edition'' corrals two of the more popular talk show senators, Joe Biden, Demoract of Delaware, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. [emphasis added]
It is simply unconscionable for these programs on the public airwaves to give Republicans free rein at this stage in the election season. It's bad enough that these programs generally favor Republican and conservative guests, but to do so just over four weeks before election day is nearly tantamount to offering one party free advertising time.
I understand that the Fairness Doctrine is no longer in effect and hasn't been for nearly 20 years. Nevertheless, the Sunday programs purport to be providing a public service, and they are doing so over the public airwaves that have been granted to them by the American people through the federal government. And while I would be loath to see a Federal Communications Commission stifling debate by excessive use of its powers, if the networks are already stifling the debate themselves by allowing only one side the opportunity to speak, then there would be little to lose by having the FCC actually do its job.
Do not mistake my intentions. I do not intend to suggest that the FCC should strictly enforce an equal time provision. Nevertheless, I do not believe the Commission should allow multiple networks to show such clear favoritism in the waning moments before an election.