Let The $5 Billion Rumpus Begin! (Media Execs Say Yay! Edition)

Over the past year the hardguessing staff has reported any number of estimates of the overall spending for the 2012 election: $4 billion, $6 billion, $9.8 billion, and etc.

Now comes the latest guesstimate, via AlterNet:

Advertising on Television Rockets, as Super PACs Pour in the Dough: Total Spending $5 Billion

Are owners’ profits conflicting with newsrooms’ public interest obligations?

After the votes are counted in November, there will be a big winner in the 2012 election who is not Mitt Romney, Barack Obama nor their top donors. This winner does not want to change anything about how America’s latest national election was run.

The unadvertised victors are media businesses that are seeing political advertising profits reach into the billions. There is no one estimate that combines all of 2012’s campaign advertising across all media, but one of the biggest winners clearly will be local TV stations and regional TV networks in 10 presidential swing states—and in California because of its costly statewide ballot measures.

These TV stations alone will earn $2.8 billion in the 2011-12 election cycle, according to a forecast by Moody’s Investors Service, with a big slice of profits coming from shadowy political groups that sprouted like mushrooms after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in early 2010. They are part of media landscape that last month surpassed the 2008 presidential campaign’s spending record.

The problem is, according to AlterNet: Is there an inherent conflict of interest for news organizations to profit wildly from an enterprise they should be scrutinizing?

This story has many dimensions, but one that particularly stands out concerns a conflict of interest at the heart of being a media business. The local television stations that are reaping this advertising bonanza are largely not covering the biggest sponsors of the political ads on their airwaves.

“While many TV stations are covering local and national races, they are ignoring the ever-expanding role money and the media are playing in these contests,” a new report by the progressive media reform group, FreePress.org, found. “It’s clear that the election’s biggest winners are the conglomerates that own local TV stations in battleground states. And the biggest loser? Democracy.”

It’s easy to dismiss these concerns as knee-jerk liberal handwringing, but it’s a question worth asking: Can the watchdogs simultaneously be cash cows?

Or are some animals more equal than others?



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1 Response to Let The $5 Billion Rumpus Begin! (Media Execs Say Yay! Edition)

  1. Of course it’s a conflict of interest; never more so, given the bifurcation of today’s media. Journalistic impartiality was an oddity peculiar to one era, now passed — and there are eyeballs at stake.


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