Categorized | Elections, News

Study: Political commercials exceed political news


Hawaii voters saw more ads than information when watching televised news broadcasts just prior to the primary election, according to a study by local citizen groups, Common Cause Hawaii and Media Council Hawaii.

The preliminary findings come from their new study, “Media, Money & Democracy: Political Campaign Advertising and Hawaii Television News in the 2012 Elections.”

This study aims to explore the political news coverage and political commercials shown during Hawaii’s local television newscasts just prior to the 2012 Primary and General elections.

“Our primary election findings are alarming. For voters who get their news primarily through television, is this enough information to cast an informed vote?” said Nikki Love of Common Cause Hawaii.

“These numbers are consistent with studies around the nation. On television, voters are seeing more campaign ads than substantive local news coverage of the races,” said Bobby Lambrix of Media Council Hawaii.

Part 1 of this study covered 72 local television evening newscasts on KHON, KITV, KFVE, KGMB, and KHNL from Monday, Aug. 6 through Friday, Aug. 10 (the five days immediately before the Saturday August 11th primary election).

Here’s a brief summary of the findings from Part 1 of this study:

* The total number of political commercials exceeded the number of political news stories. In the evening newscasts during the period, there were 519 political commercials, compared to only 206 political news stories. In total time, this equates to 269 minutes of commercials, compared to 232 minutes of political news.

* On average, viewers saw 7.2 political commercials per newscast, compared to only 2.9 political news stories per newscast. In minutes, this equates to 3.7 minutes of political commercials per newscast, compared to only 3.2 minutes of political news.

* Four newscasts had no political news coverage at all. But those four newscasts did have 7 to 10 political commercials each.

* Nearly a quarter of all political commercials were paid for by outside groups. These groups included Pacific Resource Partnership, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hawaii Building & Construction Trades Council, and Hawaii Operating Engineers Stabilization Fund.

* There was virtually no local TV news coverage of any candidates for state legislature or county council.

* Nearly one-fifth of all political news stories were focused on Honolulu mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano’s ulcer.

Part 2 of this study by Common Cause Hawaii and Media Council Hawaii will cover the newscasts prior to the Nov. 6 General Election.

After completion of Part 2, the groups will release a complete report with discussion and recommendations for future action.

Methodology: Staff, interns, and volunteers from Common Cause Hawaii and Media Council Hawaii reviewed transcripts and video clips of all 72 local television evening newscasts on KHON, KITV, KFVE, KGMB, and KHNL from Monday, Aug. 6 through Friday, Aug. 10.

“Political news story” was defined as any political or election-related news story in the newscast, including stories about the elections, any candidates, or any elected officials at the local, state or federal levels.

“Political commercial” was defined as a commercial mentioning any political candidate or political issue (e.g., rail).

Common Cause Hawaii is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that aims to promote citizen participation in the political process and hold government accountable to the public interest.

Media Council Hawaii is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, nongovernmental independent group that seeks to improve public access to information, strengthen public support for First Amendment rights and freedoms, broaden public understanding of the role of the media, and promote accurate and fair journalism in Hawaii.

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