race may be hot, but not local television news coverage, says
UC Berkeley political science expert
Janet Gilmore, Media Relations
- Prospective voters who turn on the local evening news to
learn more about where Al Gore and George W. Bush stand on
the issues may not find much help.
across California, and around the nation, are devoting more
than about 35 seconds a night to coverage that includes candidates
talking about why you should vote for them, according to Christine
Trost, a University of California, Berkeley, political science
added, most of the coverage focuses on strategy rather than
substance. California's nightly newscasts tend to track polls
and monitor the shifting maps of battleground states rather
than focus on the presidential candidates' issue positions.
heading the California component of a nationwide effort to
step up local television coverage of political races in the
final weeks before the election, which is Tuesday (Nov. 7).
the outcome of this year's presidential race is expected to
be the closest in decades," Trost said, "the three nightly
network newscasts are devoting very little time to issue coverage,
and California's local television stations are reflecting
that trend as well."
for Better Campaigns, a Washington, D.C.- based advocacy group,
is heading a nationwide effort to improve coverage. The California
campaign is directed by Trost and the Citizens' Research Foundation
at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.
her colleague Robert Lim spent most of the summer contacting
local television producers, calling political analysts and
firing off letters to the executives who own those local companies.
The results have been mixed.
out of more than 75 television stations across the state have
agreed to step up coverage and allow the candidates' voices
to be heard. But Trost has found some success: At least one
station in every major market in California has agreed to
increase its coverage. Those stations include KPIX in the
San Francisco Bay Area; KNBC, KCBS and KPXN in Los Angeles;
KNSD in San Diego; and KCRA and KMAX in Sacramento.
95 stations, or seven percent of the nation's 1,300 local
stations, have signed up for the effort. The complete list
is available at http://greedytv.org/greedies/goodguys.php3.
other members of the alliance are asking local television
stations to follow the voluntary standards first proposed
by a White House advisory commission in late 1998.
recommended that, starting in 2000, television stations air
five minutes of "candidate-centered discourse" each night
at any time between 5 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. This was to occur
during the 30 days before an election and could spotlight
the presidential candidates; candidates for U.S. Congress;
or candidates for state and local offices.
minutes could be broken up among various broadcasts that night,
include mini-debates, or news reports that also feature reporter
voice-overs and other coverage. The Alliance for Better Campaigns
began monitoring national TV coverage during the 2000 presidential
primary season and found that typical stations in selected
major media markets aired no more than 39 seconds of candidates
is now monitoring coverage of the general election. Results
will be studied and tabulated in the weeks following the election.
preliminary studies of the local network affiliates in the
nation's top five media markets show that on Oct. 9 and 10,
the first two weeknights of the 30-day pre-election period,
stations aired a nightly average of just 45 seconds of candidates
to Trost, several Bay Area stations also came up short: On
Oct. 9 and 10, KRON-TV (CH. 4) averaged 21 seconds of candidates
talking; KGO-TV (CH. 4) averaged 38 seconds.
other members of the national alliance remain concerned that
a lack of local news coverage makes voters dependent upon
30-second political ads for information about candidates.
same time that stations neglected their obligation to serve
the public interest by providing viewers with substantive
information on local, state and national elections," she said,
"they enjoyed a windfall of profits from the sale of political
broadcasters earned more than $114 million from the 151,267
political ads that aired between January 1 and April 30, according
to research done for the alliance by Power Television, an
ad monitoring service. California stations took in $49.1 million
during that same period. Leading the country was KABC in Los
Angeles, with $9 million. Number two was KNBC in Los Angeles,
with more than $7.4 million.
for Better Campaigns is a nationwide network of nonprofit
organizations, former journalists and elected officials. Its
honorary national co-chairs are former Presidents Jimmy Carter
and Gerald Ford and former network anchor Walter Cronkite.
Honorary co-chairs of the California campaign are former California
Gov. Peter Wilson and California Sen. Barbara Boxer.
For more information on the monitoring of California news
coverage, contact Trost by email: