A few days ago, Susan King, dean of UNC Chapel Hill’s Journalism School, called for transparency in political ads, a request that has been on the table before, as Steven Waldman broke down back in December.
In late 2011 and early 2012, the Iowa caucus cycle produced 24/7 campaign ads, and some reports indicate that local television broadcasters in the state earned $18 million in campaign advertising. I believe that it is in the interest of the community and the larger political audience to know exactly what a station has earned in an election campaign cycle and to know who purchased those ads. Transparency is the issue here. (via TV News Check)
FJP: Let’s look a little closer at the who question.
This is the first presidential election in which Americans will be inundated with television advertisements aired by Super Political Action Committees. Often negative, these ads frequently mislead voters, provide little or no information, are often inaccurate and reveal the media’s unclean hands when it comes to undermining democracy, observers warn. And it’s about to get worse. The involvement of Super PACs in the 2012 Republican primary contest has skyrocketed with a 1,600 percent increase in interest-group sponsored ads aired as compared to 2008. (via Poynter)
Though super PACs cannot legally coordinate with a candidate’s campaign, past connections to a candidate are likely. But they are big players and as reported by Reuters, they will make broadcasters a lot of money. For more information, see the Free Press’s recent report, Citizens Inundated, in which Timothy Karr writes,
Short of stopping the DVR and freeze-framing the faint disclaimer line at the end of the commercials, there is very little to help consumers differentiate Super PAC ads from those sponsored by candidates.
FJP: On that note, see these tips on how to watch Super PAC ads:
- Look for the faint type at the end of the commercial to ID the Super PAC.
- Look up the Super PAC online to see which candidate or cause it is connected to by going to Web sites such as opensecrets.org. Run by the Center tor Responsive Politics, the site lists the organizations, candidate the group supports or opposes, how much money the group has raised and spent, as well as its political viewpoint.
- Pay close attention to claims made in ads, then check with fact-checking websites. Remember Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? John Kerry’s armed services career was redefined, for some, when the organization alleged that his Purple Hearts were earned fraudulently.
- Look at the production values. Are faces darkened? Is the background music ominous? If you minimize those emotion-grabbing elements, what is the ad’s message?
- Ask yourself whether the ad is positive in support of a candidate or negative in opposition to a candidate. Super PAC ads can be either, in fact the groups can say anything they want, but their ads are usually negative and characterized as “attack ads,” though it is difficult to determine who is attacking. (via Poynter)