10/25/2006 - In this hotly contested election year – with control of Congress up for grabs – how much political news are heartland viewers getting on local television?
About a half minute per newscast, according to a recent University of Wisconsin study. The report, which examined three dozen local television stations in nine Midwestern markets from Sept.7 through Oct. 8, found that the stations devoted an average of only 36 seconds in each 30-minute newscast to election coverage. That contrasts with about 10 minutes of advertising, seven minutes of sports and weather, and about two-and-a half-minutes of crime news.
The study also found that there were several topics that received less attention than election coverage, including foreign policy (23 seconds) and accidents/disasters (11 seconds.)
Larry Hansen, vice president of the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation—which funded the study by the University of Wisconsin’s NewsLab—said he was disappointed with the results, particularly because voters tend to rely on local television as their primary source of information about elections. (In a July survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 54% of the respondents said they regularly watch local TV news, making it the most popular news platform.)
Read Is Election News M.I.A. on Local TV? on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.