Local Newscasts Are Not About Local Politics

A study by the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center pointed out in the 2004 elections that 55 percent of the broadcasts on local TV newscasts contained a presidential story - but only 8 percent of the broadcasts contained a story about a local contest. This includes U.S. House, Senate, state house, city council, and other local office stories.

Could it be that local races were so boring that news directors couldn't come up with an interesting story? Yes, local TV, like TV anywhere is all about ratings and viewers. It seems the easy way out was airing the big headlines and closely contested presidential race.

The study surveyed 44 major network affiliates, which could, partly, be the cause of the problem. If the study dug deeper into those 160 smaller markets in the United States with TV outlets that it didn't survey, they may have come up with a few biting and sexier political stories.



More fascinating than local politics were traffic accidents and other accidental injury stories.

Local news shows ran fender-benders, people falling out of trees, and 'dog bites man' stories eight times as much as local politics stories. Unless, of course, if it was a politician who was involved in some sort of mishap - falling down a flight of stairs at the state assembly house, for example.

And, of course, one Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, weighed in. He called the report "shocking" and called into question the broadcasting industry's recent public service record.

Look out below.

Considering how easily the FCC regulated stiffer fines for indecent acts on TV, I'm sure local TV station news directors are already scheduling a number of tepid city council meetings to air during this November's elections.

All this will give poor local TV newscasts microscopic ratings, force a number of news directors to be fired, and put stations into bankruptcy.

Show business. There's nothing like it.

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