More Kudos For CBC’s Political Campaign Coverage

More Kudos For CBC’s Political Campaign Coverage

The Alliance for Better Campaigns released a report last week showing that WRAL-TV ranked in the top five stations nationally in a survey focusing on “candidate-centered discourse” in the recent political campaign.

The report from the USC Annenberg School for Communications studied 74 television stations in 58 of the top 60 markets in the last 30 days before the election. Of that group, 23 stations had made a public commitment to meeting the 5/30 standard. The 74 stations were selected because they had received the most money in political advertising.

  Read the Report
  Read the press release from the Alliance for Better Campaigns
  Read the Gore Commission Report

The researchers “wanted to see whether a White House panel’s recommendation of airing 5 minutes of candidate centered discourse (CCD) a night in the last month of a campaign had an impact.”

The Annenberg School for Communications based its research on a request by the Gore Commission, an entity established to discern what obligations digital broadcasters have to the citizens of the United States. CBC President & CEO Jim Goodmon served on this Commission and avidly supported the five-minute suggestion. In short, the Commission requested broadcasters provide five minutes of candidate centered discourse (CCD) each evening between 5:00 and 11:30pm.

The report spells out the reasoning for this request in its conclusion: “The television airwaves are owned by the American people and licensed to broadcasters for their use. In the 2000 campaign, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, total spending on political advertising was $771 million. Analysts at Wall Street’s Paine Webber pegged the figure even higher, at $1 billion.”

The report asks:

“What did the American people receive in exchange for licensing stations to take in those revenues? This was the question asked by the Gore Commission. Prompted by the $70 billion gift of the digital spectrum to broadcasters-which might have been realized by the public at auction, but which instead, due largely to effective industry lobbying, was granted gratis-the Gore Commission asked what public interest obligations for broadcasters came along with this gift. The Commission’s answer was a recommendation that broadcasters voluntarily offer 5 minutes of candidate centered discourse a night in the last 30 days before an election.”

Capitol Broadcasting Company publicly committed to the 5/30. Only 7% of the nation’s 1300 local TV stations committed to trying to meet this standard; the rest were silent on the issue. Of the 74 stations in the study, the 23 stations committed to this standard aired an average of 2 minutes 17 seconds of CCD per night. This was three times the 45 seconds of CCD aired by the non-5/30 stations.

WRAL-TV aired an average of 3 minutes 38 seconds per night (only 5 stations in the country aired over 3 minutes CCD per night). WRAL is in the 29th market in the nation.

In an addendum which studied any form of political reporting in addition to CCD, the report states:

“Most measurements of quality coverage in this addendum are less restrictive than CCD, which means it is easier for stations to achieve a higher rank under these standards. Yet even when we give stations credit for airing anything at all about politics, regardless of its content, the nationwide nightly average time devoted to political news in the last month of the 2000 campaign was 6 minutes 20 seconds, out of 6-and-a-half hours of broadcast time. As most television viewers were painfully aware, those 6 minutes and 20 seconds of political news were not much of a match for the time that broadcasters sold each night for political advertising.”

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