Nov 12, 2006

DFP editorial supports reasonable position on robo calls

The editorial in the Detroit Free Press Sunday clearly reinforced what I have been saying about the practice of robo calls. You cannot stop them nor should you want to stop them because the calls are political speech, but we can and should place some reasonable restrictions on them, such as identifying who is paying for the call, limiting the duration of the calls and placing some reasonable time restrictions on the calls.

The editorial is also nice to see because one of our local newspapers, the Daily Press & Argus, editorialized about completely banning them and one of our esteemed representatives in Lansing, Chris Ward, also supported banning them. The ironic part is Ward used the robo calls during the past election, and the newspaper regularly hires a company to make telemarketing calls on their behalf. I hope Rep. Andy Meisner, the new chair of the House Oversight, Elections and Ethics Committee, takes the measure up in January. The former chair of the committee, Ward, was too involved in passing legislation that benefited just his party and introducing show legislation.

Maybe the most annoying aspect of the campaigns that just ended was the proliferation of "robo-calling" -- automated messages on behalf of political candidates or causes that kept phones ringing and answering machines filled throughout the fall.
This practice can't be stopped, but it can be regulated, as some states have done. Michigan should, too.
The calls, often featuring celebrities or political leaders, are more annoying than effective, and, for elderly people who are most likely to have only land-line phones, they can be a physical imposition.
Folks who signed up for the Federal Trade Commission's do-not-call list that took effect in 2005 may have thought they would be free of this form of telemarketing. But the campaign calls are exempt because they are political speech, which is well established as different from commercial speech.
Even with political speech, however, courts have upheld restrictions on the "time, place and manner" of its delivery. A couple dozen states have put some limits on robo-calling that Michigan legislators should consider before the next statewide election in 2008. These include requiring the calling companies to register with the state, so at least they can be identified and asked to respond to complaints.
Some states limit the hours when robo-calling is allowed, and a few require that a live person introduce the taped message, which raises costs, increases the time required, and effectively discourages the practice.


Kathy said...

Personally, I'd like to be able to block robo calls through the "do not call" list. If we have the freedom to vote or not vote in this country, then we should also have the freedom to say we don't want their calls coming into our homes.

Communications guru said...

Thank you for your input Kathy. I must respectfully disagree with you. Maybe because I have worked on political campaigns and I’m a bit of a political junkie robo calls do not bother me, unless they are putting out clearly false info and I don’t know who to call and complain to. But to me, both political speech and the vote are too precious to restrict or to take lightly, and too many good men and women have paid in blood and their lives to ensure those freedoms to let them go so easily.

Anonymous said...

Guru! You have to make up your mind.

You rip on the P&Argus because all their right-wing editorial decisions are supposedly made by the Gannett masters, and then in the next breath, you praise the Free Press for their editorial judgment.

Um, remind me again, who owns the Free Press?

Communications guru said...

I have made up my mind, and there’s no discrepancy in my position, Who-Ever-You-Are. I said when the P & A endorsed Chris Ward over Mike McGonegal without the benefit of an endorsement interview like they have always given every candidate from school board on down something was not right. Then the Free Press – with even less information on Mike that the P & A – made the same endorsement I knew something was not right. I said then, and I say now, the endorsement directions were not local, and for all I know they came from USA Today/Gannett HQ in Virginia. I would like to know from Rich Perlberg, since he dodged the question, when was the last time you endorsed a candidate for the state House without first doing an endorsement interview? I will venture to guess this was the first time.

I have never, ever said “all their right-wing editorial decisions are supposedly made by the Gannett masters.” With a former conservative Republican candidate and another person who contributes to Republican campaigns on the P & A editorial board we can expect a lot more rightwing positions, at least the ones their allowed to make. But again, I said the endorsement decisions were not local, and I stand by that.

I thought you were smart enough to know the Free Press and the P & A are both owned by Gannett, but apparently you’re not.

Anonymous said...


"The endorsement decisions were not local, and I stand by that."

Gannett's people told the Argus that they had to endorse Chris Ward? You're joking, right? What the heck does anyone at Gannett care about a piddly little state house race in Michigan? Um, don't you think they have bigger things to worry about?

You need to move on, my man. They didn't endorse McGonegal. Just get over it. Your conspiracy theories are bordering on the absurd now.

Get over it. Move on.

Communications guru said...

I have moved on “my man,” but that does not change the fact the endorsement process for the state House in Livingston County was not local. Take a look at how the endorsement for governor went down at the Lansing State Journal and then say that. If you believe it was just a “piddy little state house race in Michigan” then you have no idea how important control of the House really is or understand politics. I have no problem with Mike McGonegal not getting endorsed. The problem is the process is not fair and it no longer has any integrity. I fail to see how pointing out the unfairness of the process rises to the level of a “conspiracy theory.”