Our Democracy, Our Airwaves
Political Coverage and Political Advertising
Candidates for public office, especially for statewide or federal office, rely heavily on broadcast television to reach out to voters. And yet coverage of candidate and elections on broadcast news shows has declined precipitously over the last two decades. News stories are now focused almost exclusively at the top of the ticket, and are far more likely to dwell on horserace issues, such as who’s ahead in the latest poll, than on substantive issues that may indicate how a candidate will govern once in office.
As a result, candidates now devote the lion’s share of their campaign resources to buying ads on broadcast television. A recent study by the Alliance for Better Campaigns found that most candidates for U.S. Senate spent more than half of their total campaign budgets on TV spots. It is now routine for candidates in closely contested state senate races in the Chicago media market to buy broadcast time, even though more than nine out of ten Chicagoland viewers live in other senate districts and therefore cannot vote for either candidate. Although the deluge of political ads around election time drives viewers batty, the spots have become the only consistent way candidates have to make sure that their message gets out to voters.
Television stations have added to the problem in several ways. They have cut back on coverage of elections, both in terms of the number of stories and in the length of stories. They have eliminated coverage of down ticket races, such as appellate court and state legislature. And they have jacked up rates for political ads, despite federal requirements that they serve the public interest and offer candidates the best rate possible.
ICPR is working with local and national partners to improve television coverage of candidates and elections.
ICPR and the Alliance for Better Campaigns collected data on political news coverage and advertising on the major Chicago television stations.
Click here for the highlights of the study (pdf).
Political ads on TV early and often says Chicago Tribune.
A deluge of political advertising threatens our democracy (Naperville Sun)
5/26/2006 From The Campaign Legal Center
1/11/2006 From The Campaign Legal Center
1/20/05 From the State Journal Register
1/12/05 Sunday January 16, 2005 3-6PM
11/16/04 From the State Journal Register
10/13/04 From The Alliance for Better Campaigns
10/13/04 From the State Journal Register
10/12/04 From the Washington Post
8/24/04 From the Chicago Tribune
8/24/04 From the Chicago Sun-Times
7/27/04 From the NYTimes.com
6/16/04 From the Washington Post
Carbondale, November 18, 2002
Who: Former U.S. Senator Paul Simon gave a keynote speech, and a panel discussion featured former U.S. Congressman Glenn Poshard, Robert Spellman, a professor at the SIU School of Journalism; and Paul Taylor, the executive director of the Alliance for Better Campaigns.
Free Air Time Forum with former Senator Paul Simon
Chicago, July 9, 2002
Click here to read a synopsis of this event.
Play "I'm Running for Congress"
The interactive game from GreedyTV.org