You know those anti-tobacco ads? The ones that are actually smart and funny and punchy? Those are collectively known as the Truth Campaign. They've been shown to be very, very effective – they're credited with up to 20% of the recent drop in teen smoking. And they're paid for by the tobacco industry.
Why would they do that? Because they had to, of course. As you may recall, in the late 90s, states Attorneys General filed a big class action lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Part of the settlement from those suits went to create the American Legacy Foundation, which basically works to stop smoking through consumer education, ad campaigns, grant-making, etc.
The whole Star/Power 105 has put the idea of FCC fines back in the spotlight, last up for discussion during the wardrobe malfunction debacle. Where do those fines go, you ask? Good question. They go straight into the Federal Treasury, to pay for things like war and the deficit (for a full breakdown of Federal spending, check out the good folks at the National Priorities Project).
I say the fines on companies like ClearChannel or ABC should go into a fund to support media literacy and media justice efforts. The money could fund some existing groups like the Youth Media Council and Radio Rootz and Third World Majority, or it could start something new and amazing.
New, amazing, and meaningfully independent, which I grant is not bloody likely under this administration. But I think there's something to this idea. And hey, if the Dems take at least one house, there's a slim chance of something good happening in DC. I'm certainly not arguing in favor of FCC fines for ridiculous things like the Janet Jackson nipple, or bachelor party scenes in reality TV shows. But for things like the recent Star comments on ClearChannel's Power 105 in New York, hell yes. And those fines should pay to take ClearChannel down.