Pricing TV Ads for Politicians

Buying TV time cost political candidates at least $1 billion in the 2002 elections, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. In theory, candidates might have spent less. Under a 1971 law, television stations must charge candidates "the lowest unit rate" for advertising spots, as part of their public-service obligation. But that law has a loophole that stations abuse by charging full rates for prime-time slots.

If a candidate wants to place an ad at 5:30 p.m., for instance, the station doesn't have to guarantee that slot, and instead could run the ad at 2 a.m. So candidates are virtually forced to pay more to ensure their ads run when the most people are watching.

A survey of stations by the Alliance for Better Campaigns makes it clear how stations are profiting by ignoring the spirit of the law: Of 37,000 political ads on 39 local stations in 19 states, the average price for a candidate's ad rose by 53 percent between the end of August and the end of October last year.

A typical example: A gubernatorial candidate in New York paid $2,800 for a 30-second ad on a local station during NBC's "The Today Show" on Aug. 26. He paid $4,300 for the same time slot on Nov. 4 - a 53.6 increase. In tight election races, the increases were much greater.

The Senate's campaign reformers, John McCain (R) of Arizona and Russ Feingold (D) of Wisconsin, have introduced a bill that would close this egregious loophole. Their fellow legislators should act to do so.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK