Sunday, December 8, 2002

What's the Buzz?

TV stations reap political windfall

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Don't doubt for a minute that television stations - and the companies that own those stations - love politics. Political advertising pumps millions onto station balance sheets every fall, and 2002 was no exception.

WKRC-TV (Channel 12) led the local pack with $1.9 million received from 2,601 ads, while WCPO (Channel 9) was close behind with $1.7 million received for 3,128 ads, according to the group Alliance for Better Ads.

That's way too much, says Paul Taylor, president of the public interest group based in Washington, D.C., that developed the tally.

"This kind of money warps the political playing field," Mr. Taylor said. "To succeed in a race you have to be wealthy or have access to people who are wealthy."

WLWT (Channel 5) trailed the local pack at $1.1 million and WXIX (Channel 19) brought in $361,577 ads. In all, politicians spent $27.4 million to advertise on Ohio television stations - with $5 million spent in Greater Cincinnati. Cleveland led all cities in political TV spending with $7.4 million.

Mr. Taylor said that federal legislators need to create a voucher system that would provide television and radio airtime of at least two hours a week to qualifying candidates in the last month of each election cycle.

But media industry analyst John Morton, based in Silver Spring, Md., said it will take a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to change the current system. "This is an important revenue source," he said, "not so much for newspapers but for companies that have television stations."

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