Nov 22, 2006

TV political ads outpace actual political coverage on TV news

Both the subscription only Gongwer News and MIRS are both reporting on the great job TV “news” did on covering politics in the last election cycle, and it compared the amount of time it spent on actual coverage of the election and issues compared to the obscene amount of cash it took in from political commercials.

As a former print reporter, I clearly have a bias for newspapers. But it takes no genius to see how shallow TV news really is. They spend more time promoting and hyping what’s coming next than on politics. That’s followed closely by crime coverage. Newspapers do a much better job, and they pay for the ink and newsprint to convey the in-depth information. TV uses the public airway for free, and most of the estimated $34 million of his own money the Amway Guy spent went to these TV stations for ads.

In the month leading up to the election, Great Lakes states saw 2.5 times more political TV advertising than they did 30-minute TV news covering the election, according to the second part of a study released by the University of Wisconsin's NewsLab.
According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN), in Lansing political coverage averaged 1.46 minutes of airtime during a 30-minute newscast. Through September, the average was 27 seconds of airtime on political stories during a newscast.
In Detroit, the MCFN said, the average in October and leading up to the November 7 election was 1.23 minutes of time, compared to 22 seconds of time spent in September.
But political advertising in the Detroit market averaged 4.21 minutes per newscast. Similar, comparable data to the amount of political ads in the Lansing market was not available.
However, Ken Goldstein of the (University of) Wisconsin study said that in all the markets, all ads as well as weather and sports coverage took more than half of a newscasts' time at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Each broadcast averaged about nine political ads, Mr. Goldstein said.

Taken alone, the lousy job TV did covering the election and the issues is atrocious, but when you combine the TV ads its obscene. TV stations need to take those millions it pocketed and actually fulfill its mission of informing the public on the issues, or it needs to start being charged for using those airwaves like newspapers are charged for ink and newsprint.

I would like to see more local political and issue shows. The best in the state, “Off the Record” is on public television. The only local issues show on commercial TV I know of is on WDIV Detroit.

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