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Clarence F. “Rick” Olson, Fargo, Published September 01 2012

Letter: TV, radio enable the political lies

Several million dollars have already been spent on political advertising in North Dakota this election cycle. Believe it or not, it’s not the major candidates spending the majority of the money and airing the ads themselves. Rather, it is outside special interest groups, such as Majority PAC and others, that have opened their checkbooks wide in what has become a competitive election cycle.

Kristen Daum’s article “Forum fact-check: Super PAC slams Berg on Social Security” (Forum, Aug. 25) was timely and interesting. It appears to me that the four major candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate in North Dakota – Democrat Pam Gulleson and Republican Kevin Cramer in the House race, and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rick Berg in the Senate race – are being way outspent by these out-of-state special interest groups.

Gulleson is a former member of the North Dakota House of Representatives from Rutland, Cramer currently serves as an elected member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, Heitkamp is a former North Dakota attorney general, and Berg is North Dakota’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

It is more than clear that the advertising from the special interest groups is based upon a whole lot of half-truths and innuendo.

It appears that the TV and radio stations just take the money and run these ads at face value without checking on the accuracy and truthfulness of the message in these ads. I believe it is incumbent upon the stations to insist that the ads that the various groups pay to be aired must be accurate and truthful in all respects.

The stations should subscribe to the following simple rule when it comes to political advertising: If the ads don’t meet even a basic fact check for accuracy, completeness and truthfulness – the ads in question will not run. Period.

There are, unfortunately, many people who take these ads completely seriously and at face value. These kinds of people base their decisions on whom to vote for just based upon these ads. There are other people like myself who take these ads with a grain of salt. At any rate, these attack ads really are a disservice to the public, as well as the candidates themselves. The candidates and the public in general deserve much better.

If a particular advertisement fails even the basic test for accuracy, honesty and truthfulness; then the stations must refuse to air the advertisement in question. I realize political advertising is lucrative. During each election cycle, millions of dollars worth of political advertising airs on radio and television stations across every state in the country.

Accuracy, honesty and truthfulness is absolutely critical and essential in a station’s news reporting, isn’t it? Accuracy, honesty and truthfulness should be just as absolutely critical and essential in the advertising a station accepts to be aired.

The radio and television stations cannot continue to allow themselves to be cheapened by airing advertising that has not been fact-checked in advance.

Olson is a regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary and opinion pages. Email rickolson@cableone.net