Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Broadcasters and the Public Interest

ICPR has for years been tracking broadcast news coverage of campaigns and elections, and for years we've been dismayed at what we see. TV stations devote a tiny share of their regular news coverage to campaigns and elections, even during the weeks and days leading up to elections. Most coverage is focused on polls and so-called "horse race" issues -- who's ahead, who's down -- while very little airtime goes to the issues that might drive voter interest. Indeed, surveys find that TV stations spend more time on teasers ("up ahead in our broadcasts…") and musical intros to the news ("and now, the news with your anchor…") than to coverage of issues and candidates in elections. Download an analysis of a typical 30-minute broadcast or a copy of the press release.

ICPR recently signed on to a statement submitted to the FCC calling for clarified guidelines for broadcasters in the digital era. The FCC has gone to great lengths to help broadcasters transition to digital broadcasting, which will expand what they can offer over the airwaves. What's missing from the picture, however, are clear rules for serving the public interest.

A copy of the filing, which was facilitated by the Benton Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center, is available here.

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