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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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NPR Is No Longer Safe


Political campaign ads on public television and radio?

Are we not safe anywhere?

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in a ruling called Minority Television Project v. Federal Communications Commission, has said public TV and radio stations can accept political ads. But a ban on ads for for-profit entities is fine.


Do you think anyone on the court has watched public TV or listened to public radio lately? Don't those contributor messages sound an awful lot like ads for for-profit entities?

Could no one have noticed this?

Maybe not. But then there's this from the ruling: "(N)either logic nor evidence supports the notion that public issue and political advertisers are likely to encourage public broadcasting stations to dilute the kind of noncommercial programming whose maintenance is the substantial interest that would support the advertising bans."

Because, naturally, political advertisers wouldn't care about content on public TV and radio. You haven't heard any politician rant about NPR, have you?

It gets more disturbing. More from the ruling: "At the outer reaches of one's imagination, perhaps, lies a potential Saturday morning cartoon featuring an appearance by President Obama or Candidate Romney, Santorum, Paul or Gingrich, wherein the political personality appears in an episode to fight crime alongside Superman or Batman."

This is completely ridiculous and would never happen.

Superman and Batman would be fighting Obama, Romney, Santorum, Paul and Gingrich.

Someone has to save us.

A New Game

You've heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

Now try One Degree of Larry H. Parker.

Here's how you play: go to Google and type in a name - say, Kevin Bacon - followed by the word "lawyer."

Then check the list of ads that come up. See what I mean?

OK, the game isn't that much fun, but there is a touch of irony here. Larry H. Parker, if you haven't heard of him, is a lawyer who advertises a lot and has a bunch of offices in California and Arizona. Last week he and his firm sued some other lawyers - because their names appeared when people did Google searches on Larry H. Parker.

According to the suits, the defendants "misappropriated plaintiffs' name in an unlawful, fraudulent and unfair attempt to increase revenue" by arranging to have their ads come up "as the first term or lead in the search results."

This didn't happen when I tried it. Maybe I got there too late - never underestimate the power of litigation.

But I definitely didn't have trouble finding Larry H. Parker ads when I Googled other stuff.

Try "Robert Shapiro Lawyer."

See what I mean?

Parker even came up when I tried "Milt Policzer Lawyer."

OK, I know Google isn't responding to my name - just "lawyer." Advertisers pay Google to show their ads when particular search terms are used.

And, yeah, it's probably not OK to hijack customers looking for someone else's business.

But is it hijacking when your ad appears on a search engine page that's not someone else's ad and still lists the competitor being Googled? The Googler could well be interested in similar alternatives.

And how is this different from a comparison ad on TV?

I see years of fascinating appellate litigation to come.

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