VIEWPOINT;THE COSTS OF FREE POL TIME;HELMUT KRONE

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A committee of political and media folks is proposing the major TV networks provide free time for major presidential candidates this fall. And Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt said he wants hearings on changes to the equal time law so only major candidates would get the free air time.

The goal, of course, is to encourage voter turnout while reducing the immense cost of running for of-fice. The assumption is that two-minute or five-minute or half-hour blocks of free time would allow candidates to spend less, and therefore spend less time on fund-raising and promise less to donors.

Lord save us from more "reform." Political candidates now find themselves hobbled by such laws. They limit the amount an individual donor can give, forcing the candidates to spend more time schmoozing more donors. And presidential hopefuls have to limit their ad spending in order to stay under limits imposed on those accepting matching government funds. Thus only the super-wealthy candidates can spend whatever they think it will take.

And, of course, the equal time rule scares broadcasters away from giving free time to anybody lest fringe candidates eat up too many free hours. If the FCC or Congress allows exceptions to the equal time rule, it's likely the Law of Unintended Consequences will apply there as well, with restrictions about who can say what during the free time.

With extensive news coverage and televised debates, the major presidential candidates and their stands are well known on election day by those voters who care. So proponents of free air time for the presidential nominees no doubt consider their proposal as merely an opening wedge in an effort to open the airwaves to more and more political candidates during primaries and elections. But owners of TV and radio stations should not be expected to give away the store in order to solve politicians' fund-raising woes.

After television emerged as the world's hottest ad medium, there came a time when print ads actually came back. Beautifully designed, filled with freshness, taste and humor, these ads won awards; celebrated a "creative revolution"; forever changed marketing communications; became conversation pieces; inspired young people to seek advertising careers. And built companies. Other than that, they had little impact.

Leading the list of legendary campaigns were those for Volkswagen, Polaroid, Avis and Porsche, all crafted by Helmut Krone of Doyle Dane Bernbach. This unique Hall of Fame art director, who died April 12 at the age of 70, left behind an inspirational legacy. He looked upon print advertising as an architectural challenge. Always seeking the perfect design solution, he would create options for himself and his copywriters, agonize about each of them, finally choose one, then sweat the layout, art and copy, and every little em pica on the page. Driven by a fertile imagination and his perfectionist's temperament, Helmut Krone's career was dedicated to harmony and good taste in advertising. Even white space served his creative vision.

One of his former DDB associates put it in perspective the other day: "Among art directors there's Helmut Krone and then there's everybody else." Will this be the moment when "everybody else" begins to try harder to live up to Mr. Krone's creative values and sensitivity? Rededication to Helmut Krone's commitment? That's the perfect way to honor his magnificent contributions.

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