A TVNewsCheck review of the online political files of several stations in three swing states reveals that super PACs and other groups not directly affiliated with candidates sometimes pay three or four times more for spots than do candidates who are entitled to the the lower unit rate discount by federal law.
Like a lot of other swing state markets, Roanoke, Va., is enjoying a windfall in poltical advertising this election season, even as viewers complain about the incessant spots. Jeffrey Marks, GM of CBS affiliate WDBJ, says the market is now expecting to get more than double the $5 million originally forecast from the presidential contest alone.
This political season, the biggest legal and practical issue for many stations so far has been the need to accommodate competing demands for air time from everyone from bona fide candidates to Super PACs to regular commercial advertisers. Staying out of hot water at the FCC involves knowing the rules and balancing those demands.
Over five months ending Aug. 26, the Young NBC affiliates sold $5.3 million of ad time to political advertisers — more than other station in the swing state, according to an examination of political files by newspapers across the state.
In Colorado Springs and Dayton, the dollars are flooding in at three times the rate they did in 2008. In Cedar Rapids, it’s six times. In Richmond, 10. “It’s a finite supply,” says Missy Evanson, GSM at KMGH Denver. “This is classic economics, right? Supply and demand theory. I’ve got so many parking spots, it’s a race to see who gets ’em.”
Tomorrow, Sept. 7th, marks the beginning of the final stretch for political advertising. That’s the first day of Lowest Unit Charge Season, the 60-day period before the Nov. 6th general election. During that time (which also occurs in the 45 days before a primary election), broadcast stations may charge no more than their lowest rate for each particular class of ad time purchased for a “use” by a legally qualified candidate.
Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker is raising her estimates for political ad spending from $4.9 billion to $5.2 billion. She upped her forecast based on television spending in August, which surged 77% on local TV to more than $171 million, compared to July. Local, network and cable TV are set to bring in $3.37 billion this election, boosting television revenue by more than 23% compared to last year. Local TV, at 54%, has the largest share of the three segments and is estimated to come in at $2.8 billion.
For all the talk about super PACs and nonprofit groups spending millions of dollars on campaign ads, the traditional campaigns still have one advantage: Their money goes farther. To the viewer, an ad is an ad, but to TV stations, not all ads are created equal.
They prefer the old paper-only filing because of the added expense, time and manpower needed to post online. And they worry who will get this info and what they’ll do with it.
Political pros took a keen interest in July in markets including Zanesville, Ohio; Sioux City and Davenport, Iowa; Charlottesville, Va.; and Las Vegas and Reno, Nev. They saw the biggest increase in political ad spending relative to their market size in the month according to a report from Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker.
If the recent court decision allowing paid candidate and issue ads on noncommercial TV and radio is upheld, there are a myriad of ramifications for both commercial and public stations. For now the court’s ruling affects only the Ninth Circuit, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, but everyone should stay attuned to further developments, especially from the FCC. Better to anticipate potential changes than to be surprised by them.
The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) has issued an advisory bulletin to members with some tips for dealing with the chaos that lies ahead on the airwaves, due to the expected tsunami of political ads as the election nears.
The Cronkite/Jackson Prize will be awarded by the Annenberg Public Policy Center to recognize the best local and network reporting on the accuracy of political advertising.
Stations have a responsibility to make sure that third-party political ads they air have some relation to reality. Their reporters ought to analyze the cliams made in such spots and air the results. But the effort shouldn’t stop there — the general manager ought to toss the dishonest ones.
That’s great news for the area’s TV stations battered by a recession that torpedoed their commercial advertisers. “We’re on the other end saying, ‘Thank you.’ We’re running around with a bushel basket trying to catch it when it falls,” said Tom Griesdorn, GM of WBNS, the Columbus CBS affiliate.
The new rules require broadcasters to post their entire public files online, including political ad rates. Broadcasters had objected to posting political rates, arguing that it would interfere with their sales efforts. The new rules apply only to top four affiliates in top 50 markets for the first two years.
An alternative plan to the FCC political file proposal floated by the Television Operators Caucus has gained support of broadcasters who are hoping for a compromise. It would require stations to regularly report who is buying political spots and how much they are paying.
Yesterday’s federal appeals court dicision that hat the long-standing prohibition on the carriage of paid political and issue advertising by noncommercial TV and radio stations is unconstitutional and may no longer be enforced by the FCC leaves open many important questions as to how to implement it.
A divided U.S. appeals court struck down a federal ban on political advertising on public TV and radio stations, a decision that could open the public airwaves to a heavy dose of campaign ads leading up to the November elections.
At its April 27 meeting, the FCC is expected to adopt new rules requiring TV stations to post their public inspection files on an FCC-hosted website, according to several agency insiders. And the commission is likely to insist that a station’s political files — records of political advertising bought by candidates and advocacy groups — be electronically converted and uploaded as well.
Continuing to position itself for a big election year, Cox Digital Solutions has reached an exclusive ad sales agreement with The Weather Channel. Per the deal, Cox Digital becomes the exclusive seller of political advertising across The Weather Channel’s crown jewel, Weather.com.
During a congressional hearing on the FCC budget, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell broached the topic of putting TV political advertising files online, and noted that while transparency was a laudable goal, there are a lot more issues involved, not the least of which is loading broadcasters with up to $140,000 in annual compliance costs.
Anti-abortion Democratic candidate Randall Terry is continuing his push to buy political ads on TV stations despite being rejected by the party. He’s been able to make buys on several stations in states where he’s been able to get on the ballot. Now he’s got his sights set on the June 5 New Jersey Democratic primary. Whether or not he’s successful, a public battle over whether stations have to air his ads may be all that Terry needs to get the attention he’s after.
While some of the political spots that will appear test the limits of both truth and taste, stations shouldn’t turn them down. Stations serve best as neutral forums for political discourse, even when it’s in the form of attack ads. But stations airing news and public affairs do have responsibilities — to their viewers and their companies. TV newsrooms should target ads that are over the top in their disregard for the truth and do stories pointing it out to voters. And station managers have to weed out of the worst of them before they hit the air.
Washington communications attorney Jack Goodman: In her commentary arguing for broadcasters to put their political advertising files online, UNC J-School Dean and former broadcaster Susan King takes several wrong turns. For one thing, it’s never been the FCC’s job to figure out who’s paying for political ads.
Broadcasters say the FCC’s proposal to put political advertising files online puts too great a burden and expense on them while exposing sensitive pricing data to the Internet. Now, however, the Television Operators Caucus has offered a compromise, a proposal to post online select political information that the public and journalists want most. It deserves consideration by all broadcasters and the FCC.
Washington communications attorney Jack Goodman answers common questions about stations’ responsibilities regarding political campaign commercial rates, bonus spots, forms of payment and more.
The public has a right to know who is paying for advertising for politicians who put themselves before the public in election cycles. And I believe that it is in the interest of the community and the larger political audience to know exactly what a station has earned in an election campaign cycle and to know who purchased those ads.
TVB’s political ad guru Jack Poor says there’s good news and bad news for TV stations in this election year. The good news is that their four-fifths share of total TV spend will be up 20% to around a record $2.5 billion, and no other medium seems positioned to cut into stations’ share. The bad news is that the total take will be suppressed due to the lack of any major gubernatorial contest that swelled the coffers in 2010.
NBC-owned WTVJ Miami is reportedly continuing to air a Mitt Romney ad that the network has asked Romney to pull, prompting charges of hypocrisy. But the situation isn’t particularly surprising since broadcasters are legally required to run any ads candidates present — as is. NBC and former Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw asked Romney’s campaign to drop the ad — which consists almost entirely of a clip from a 1997 Nightly News broadcast discussing then House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s reprimand for ethics violations.
Super PAC spending in South Carolina was outrageously high, and it’s going to be even bigger in Florida and likely get bigger yet going forward into Super Tuesday. With the race now down to a battle between the two frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, political action committees are expected to ramp up spending to knock off one or the other candidate with saturation ad spending in the states with primaries on Super Tuesday, which this year is on March 6.
Chris Young, CFO of Entravision, the largest Univision affiliate group, said the company doesn’t expect GOP primary candidates to spend heavily in targeting Hispanics in the coming weeks. But the ultimate winner will as the general election takes shape.
After a long and unexpected lull, candidates and PACs pour money into TV spots on the eve of caucuses.
The Republican presidential hopefuls and political action committees that support them are saturating Iowa television with mostly negative ads.
As if marketers didn’t have enough to worry about in 2012, with troubling signs that the economy will remain less than robust, they will also have politicians and their war chests interfering with planned media campaigns for the coming year.
Carrie Brown-Smith, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Memphis, on how 2012 could play out for local television and other media: “In addition to the election-year advertising boon, local television, with its recognizable personalities, also has a clear opportunity in the digital space.”
Numerous television and radio ads are broadcast across the nation by groups trying to hide the real sources of the thousands or millions of dollars behind them.
News will always be the first choice of political advertisers because they know they can reach more likely voters there. But when the dollars begin flooding in next year, experts say, more will be going into non-news programming because news inventory will be tapped out and because some advertisers want to target certain types of voters.