Man Without Qualities

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Profits Up, Clout and Dems Down

Al Hunt today in the Wall Street Journal notes:

Across America, television stations are engaged in two pervasive phenomena: severely cutting back on campaign coverage while jacking up rates candidates must pay to advertise. ... A University of Southern California study of the 1998 governor's race in that state surveyed thousands of hours of news coverage in major markets; considerably less than 1% was devoted to the governor's race. This year USC and University of Wisconsin researchers examined almost 2,500 newscasts in 17 major markets a month ago and found that over half contained no campaign coverage at all; many of the rest only offered short, fleeting coverage.

Mr. Hunt is smart and certainly in a position to know about these things, so the Man Without Qualities will assume he is correct and not misleading.

The development described by Mr. Hunt should mean that television companies will have less influence with politicians and that Democrats probably have a huge problem that will persist well past election day. If television news covers campaigns, then television companies can "contribute" to a campaign with biased reporting. And, in the past, they have done just that. And, in general, television news has been strongly biased in favor of Democratic candidates.

A cut back in campaign coverage means less in the way of "contributions" masquerading as biased television news reporting, that means less influence for the television companies with the politicians. But what Mr. Hunt is also reporting - but doesn't actually state - is that television companies are reducing their political contributions to Democrats.

One reason Democrats have been able to thrive in recent decades despite lower overall contribution is the support they receive from third parties, especially unions and biased media (notably television) campaign coverage. Mr. Hunt is, in effect reporting that one of those "sources" of Democrat support has not only dried up - it is now becoming a "sink" of rapidly rising expenses. How can this be happening? The media companies and the Democrats are pals!

Of course, the Democrats and the media routinely deny that television coverage is biased - sometimes the Democrats or their surrogate hilariously attempt to "prove" that the coverage is actually biased against Democrats. If they keep that up, they will not be able to argue in public that Mr. Hunt's reported development is actually hurting them or requires any remedy. That certainly will make for an interesting and subtle public argument. In the mean time, the House Democrats seem to be out of campaign money for the last week of the campaign.

Fancy that. Sometimes one just doesn't receive as much support as one needs, and things just end up costing more than you expect. And sometimes that happens in very funny ways.

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