As the depth and breadth of TV news has decreased – especially at the local level – communities have fewer and fewer sources of meaningful election coverage. The result is that people now receive the majority of their information about candidates from campaign ads – not from the news. In their recent future of media report the FCC noted that in 2006, “viewers of local news in the Midwest got 2.5 times more information about local elections from paid advertisements than from newscasts.”…

…And as campaign ads have become huge windfalls for TV broadcasters, there is little market motivation to change this equation. More than two-thirds of all campaign spending in the last election went to TV stations. In 2008, TV commercials ate up at least $2.8 billion in campaign funds nationwide. In the wake of the Citizen’s United decision political advertising broke the $400 million mark in the 2010 election. It is a paradox of our media moment that technology has put a printing press in almost everyone’s hands, but increasingly freedom of speech and the press is only available to those who can pay.
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