Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
This is something that major corporate media publications with financial resources like The Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star could be doing as a public service, but probably have never even contemplated doing.
The local TV stations themselves could voluntarily post this public information online, but again, have probably have never even contemplated doing. They all like to make a big deal about how their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for public information led to their investigative reporting, but when it is public information held in the hands of the local TV media -- not so much. Local TV news stations don't use this public information in their own files as a basis for reporting on political ads. Self-interest gets in the way of the public's right to know.
The investigative journalists at Pro Publica have had enough of the media conglomerates delaying new FCC rules in Congress requiring local TV stations to post public information about political ads online, so they have taken matters into their own hands. If TV Stations Won't Post Their Data on Political Ads, We Will:
Every local broadcast station has a repository of documents about political advertising that you have a legal right to see but can do so only by going to the station and asking to see “the public file.”
These paper files contain detailed data on all political ads that run on the channel, such as when they aired, who bought the time and how much they paid. It’s a transparency gold mine, allowing the public to see how campaigns and outside groups are influencing elections.
But TV executives have been fighting a Federal Communications Commission proposal to make the data accessible online. They say making the files digital would be too burdensome — it “could well take hundreds of hours for a single station,” according to comments filed with the FCC by the National Association of Broadcasters.
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We tend to like the idea of public data being online. Since TV stations won’t put it online themselves, we decided to do it ourselves — and we want your help.
Working with students at the Medill journalism school at Northwestern University, we looked at five local stations in the Chicago market.
You can explore the results yourself: Here are detailed breakdowns of when the ads aired, during which programs, and how much each spot cost: Read the documents from the local affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and CW.
Big thanks to Medill students David Tonyan, Julie O’Donoghue, Vesko Cholakov, Safiya Merchant and Gideon Resnick, who visited the stations Monday.
We intend to enlist more readers in checking their local stations as the election campaigns slog on. The general election is likely to usher in even greater spending, and such spot checks could keep an eye on how big spenders are influencing the election. If you’d like to join in, please fill out this form.
Campaigns and super PACs are required to report their spending on independent expenditures to the Federal Election Commission within a day or two, but they often just report how much they paid ad-buying firms, which can disguise how much actual ads cost and where they’re airing.
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Typically, a station employee will simply show you the room where the files are kept and let you dig in.
Such visits don’t seem to happen often. A log at the New York CBS affiliate showed only six registered visitors since October 2011.
[Way to go political reporters! You waste your time on talking points provided to you about the political ads themseleves instead of reporting on who is responsible for the ads and who is paying for them. In the post-Citizens United era, this is the information that voters need to know.]
The Campaign Media Analysis Group, a unit of Kantar Media, tracks ads that have hit the airwaves and estimates what they would cost, but the company charges high rates to obtain the information. The Wesleyan Media Project publishes some CMAG data.
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Which is why we’re asking for your help. You can help expose spending that might otherwise remain hidden in your television market. Sign up here.
Let's build a data base for the Phoenix and Tucson media markets. if you are good at research and want to do citizen investigative journalism that the corporate media villagers fail or refuse to do, here is an opportunity for you to do a immense amount of good. Let us know what you find. We'll be happy to share your findings here.