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Campaign Finance Inform: Giving Voters What They Don’t Pay For

Now that Election 2012 has been handed off to the history books, it’s a good time to take stock of what broadcasters did to serve the American voting demographic. There will be a lot said about the tidal wave of political ads that aired during this election cycle, yet that is only the paid side of the political information carried by local broadcast television. In large part, those ads primarily served the agendas of the candidates, while the revenues they generated provided a strong financial base to serve the informational needs of their viewers.

And that’s probably the crux of it all, right there. “Coverage of the coverage”, so to speak, focuses almost exclusively upon how much money was spent in local television advertising during this election. There’s no denying that the advertising revenue is an important component to any discussion about politics in the media, yet it’s far from the only story.

Think about it – outside of the advertising press, when we talk about television, there’s virtually no discussion about how much was spent by QSR, or Automotive, or Package Goods. We talk about how NBC has found a hit in Revolution. We vote for our favorite singers and dancers. We “Like” and Tweet about what we feel are the best shows on television. In our discussion of “regular” television, content remains king, as it should be.

Yet when it does come to choosing our leaders, the content has become overshadowed by the dollars.

Only the local stations themselves choose a better way. When it comes to political coverage, you have to say that they are indeed putting their money where their mouths are. They deliver an overwhelming amount of election-based free content to their communities who are starved for real information. But this onslaught of election information wasn’t done for the purpose of being a profit center; it was done because it’s the right thing to do.

Stations don’t host debates or give away airtime because there’s great ROI in it for them. They do it because they represent their local communities, which have important issues to discuss, questions to ask, answers to be had. So they’re constantly learning how to best leverage their assets to ask those burning questions and to provide answers wherever their viewers can use them.

Throughout this election cycle, information – and misinformation – was oftentimes nearly impossible to decipher. That’s why local broadcast stations played such a critical role this year, and will only grow in their utility in elections to come. Our society is becoming one that values – strike that, demands – the ever-present ability to get information.

Our world is far too connected, far too fact–obsessed, to be satisfied solely by a 30–second spot to determine who is best suited to lead their government — and directly impact their wallets.

And that’s why local TV broadcasters have leveraged resources across their assets to deliver critical information to their citizens. Be it in free airtime for candidates, online fact–checkers and position–comparison tools, station-sanctioned user–generated video to document local issues, smartphone and tablet election-based apps, their stations were ready to serve.

The stations- although probably more accurately, their management and their journalists – consider this an example of what defines their purpose. They do this because it’s what they do, it’s who they are. It’s their duty, their responsibility, their mandate to get the story not only right, but complete. That’s why we place our trust in them, because it’s what makes them tick, and we appreciate that.

Study after study has shown that local broadcasters have earned the trust and loyalty of their viewers. And viewers are learning that they can extend this trust beyond the first screen for the stations’ ability to deliver unbiased, reliable political information anywhere they need — on–air, on–line, or on–the–go.

Because when you really think about it, stations were made for this. News professionals have never had information delivery platforms as expansive as this, and it has to give them a sense of validation that they can fulfill their mandate. Their service to their communities will only get better as technology improves. And with it, one would hope that we will get better government as a result.

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