A University of Wisconsin study unveiled today finds TV viewers in the Midwest saw more campaign ads, than campaign coverage, on their local news.
UW-Madison's NewsLab found that on average, viewers in seven Midwest markets saw one 76 second election news story, for every four and a half minutes of campaign ads during the last thirty days before the election. "What really jumps out in this report , is that in the days leading up to election, voters were far more likely to see political ads than election news stories," said the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign 's Mike Mccabe. "TV stations are effectively feeding citizens the equivalent of a junk food diet." McCabe did credit Madison TV stations with doing a somewhat better job. (Markets studied included Madison, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cleveland, Columbus and Milwaukee)
So, is local television news serving the public? "The short answer is no" said Larry Hansen, Vice President of the Joyce Foundation in Chicago, which funded the Midwest News Index. "I don't think we can have informed participation in the political process without the news media assuming greater responsibility."
Hansen cited reports that nearly two billion dollars was spent on advertising during the run up to November's elections, something he called "a tsunami of spending."
Professor Ken Goldstein, Director of the Midwest News Index, says viewers during the final 30 days prior the election would have seen, on average, almost nine political ads per half-hour local newscast.