White House Science Czar Advocated FCC Forcing Broadcasters to Air Enviro-Population Control Ads
He cited, as examples of the type of advertising he was talking about, ads produced by Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, and Zero Population Growth (ZPG).
Holdren made his argument for using the FCC to advance his vision for population control and environmentalism in the 1977 book, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment. Holdren co-wrote the book with renowned population-control advocates Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich.
“In the United States a great step could be taken merely by requiring that both radio and television assign some of their commercial time to short public-service ‘spots’ calling attention to the problems of population, resources, and environment,” Holdren, Ehrlich and Ehrlich wrote.
“This could be justified under the equal-time doctrine that put the antismoking message sponsored by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society on TV (see ‘Advertising’ section),” the authors wrote.
“The FCC might be empowered to require that networks donate time for ads to awaken people to the population-resource-environment crisis,” the authors wrote. “Such spots, sponsored by voluntary organizations like Planned Parenthood, ZPG, and the Sierra Club, have been moderately effective in drawing public attention to the problems. Unfortunately, the advertising budgets available to these groups are puny compared to those of General Motors or Exxon.”
Holdren is President Barack Obama’s top adviser on public policy issues pertaining to science and technology. At the time Ecoscience was published, he was an associate professor of energy and resources at the University of California-Berkeley. The passage about using the FCC to force broadcasters to air advertisements about “the population-resource-environment crisis” is in a chapter of Ecoscience entitled, “Changing American Institutions.” One of the subheadings in this chapter is “Programming and propaganda.”
In this section, before they advocate using the FCC to make broadcasters provide free air time for environmentalist advertising, the authors state their belief that television in the United States “is employed to promote the ideas and interests of a controlling minority” and that this should be avoided in developing countries.
They argue that programming in developing countries “ought to be informational, even if presented as entertainment,” and ought to give people “information on the need for population control and the ways it might be achieved.”
“There remains, of course, the substantial danger that a worldwide communications network will not be used for the benefit of humanity or will further erode cultural diversity,” wrote Holdren, Ehrlich and Ehrlich.
“If, like the television system in the United States, it is employed to promote the ideas and interests of a controlling minority, the world would be better off without it,” they wrote. “If it is used to create a global desire for plastic junk and the Los Angelization of Earth, it would be a catastrophe.”
The way to protect developing countries from this, they argue, is through programming that is “carefully designed by social scientists and communications experts” and public control of the media.
“Much programming ought to be informational, even if presented as entertainment,” wrote Holdren, Ehrlich and Enrlich. “People in the LDCs [less developed countries] need help in increasing agricultural production and improving public health, as well as information on the need for population control and the ways it may be achieved.”
“Programming should be carefully designed by social scientists and communications experts thoroughly familiar with the needs and attitudes of the audiences in each country or locality,” they wrote. “This is particularly important in LDCs, where it will be especially difficult because of the lack of trained people and the radical change in attitude that is required. Control of the communications media obviously should be public, with maximum safeguard against abuses and against the problems of ‘cultural homogenization.’ The problem of controlling ‘Big Brother’ will be ever present in all societies.”
Ecoscience was published by W.H. Freeman and Company in San Francisco.
Holdren received his undergraduate degree and a Masters in Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph. D from Stanford University. Before becoming director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Holdren was a professor at Harvard University and director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Mass.
The White House and the Office of Science and Technology Policy have not responded to requests for comment on Holdren’s statements in Ecoscience about the FCC requiring television and radio stations to air advertisements on “the population-resource-environment crisis.”