Local TV Stations Accept Big Money for Political Ads…and Don’t Ask Questions
Big winners in the million-dollar political ad wars this year are local television stations, many of which have conveniently avoided delving into the murky world of campaign donors as part of their news coverage for fear of biting the hand that feeds them.
Take the network affiliates in Milwaukee, for example.
During the two weeks before Wisconsin’s June primary featuring the nationally-watched gubernatorial recall vote, the local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations didn’t broadcast any stories about the 17 groups buying air time to support or attack Governor Scott Walker.
But the stations did find time to produce 53 local news segments on Justin Bieber.
The media watchdog group Free Press also found that network affiliates in Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Milwaukee and Tampa did virtually no fact-checking of the claims made in political ads purchased by the four Super PACs and independent groups spending the most in those markets.
In the case of Cleveland, the four affiliate stations failed to air any stories about the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity, while at the same time broadcasting the group’s anti-Obama attack ads more than 500 times.
To Learn More:
Left in the Dark: Local Election Coverage in the Age of Big-Money Politics (by Timothy Karr, Free Press) (pdf)
Appeals Court Approves Secrecy for TV Political Ad Donors (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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