A Problem With Democracy

From the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign:

Political Ads Account for 2.5 Times More Air Time Than Election Coverage on Local TV Newscasts

In the month leading up to the 2006 mid-term elections, local television news
viewers got considerably more information about campaigns from paid political
advertisements than from actual news coverage, a new University of Wisconsin
analysis shows. Local newscasts in seven Midwest markets aired nearly four and ahalf minutes of paid political ads during the typical 30-minute broadcast while
dedicating an average of one minute and 43 seconds to election news coverage.

The new post-election analysis also shows that most of the actual news
coverage of elections on early and late-evening broadcasts was devoted to
campaign strategy and polling, which outpaced reporting on policy issues by a
margin of over three to one (65 percent to 17 percent). These findings come
amid studies consistently showing that voters look to local television
newscasts as their primary source of information about elections.

Other bullets from the press release:

41 percent of the election stories were aired in the final week before Election

There was a political ad “echo effect.” One in ten election stories mentioned,
pictured or focused on a specific campaign ad.

In coverage of elections, 57% of stories in Milwaukee focused on strategy and
horserace, while 23% of stories focused on issues. In Madison, 59% of stories
focused on strategy and horserace, while 27% of stories focused on issues.

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