NAB, NBC Criticize News Study


The National Association of Broadcasters drove home several points Tuesday through what it suggested were gaping holes in a study saying that broadcasters were only providing a little more than three minutes of campaign coverage in the run-up to the November election.

Calling the study "disappointing" and "clearly slanted" to align with the ideological bent of its authors -- Annenberg's Norman Lear Center and the University of Wisconsin, Madison -- NAB took issue with the following:

The study covered 11 of 211 markets, "hardly a representative sampling of an entire industry."

NAB pointed out that the study, which looked at newscasts between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., excluded "thousands of hours" of coverage in midday, morning, early afternoon 4 p.m. and late-night programming. "Americans get their news 24/7," said NAB.

NAB points out that the vast majority of local House races were not competitive, and that the closeness of the presidential race might account for more airtime devoted to that contest.

NAB also pointed to another study, an Oct. 22-25, by Wirthlin Worldwide that found that 89% of Americans say broadcasters provide "about the right amount" or "too much" election coverage.

NBC Universal shared NAB's displeasure with the study's exclusion of large blocks of time, saying that when looking at the whole day, NBC-owned stations--including NBC and Telemundo--averaged over five minues per day for the nine weeks preceding the election, including breaking political news, "candidate-centered" discourse, coverage of national and local candidates' policy positions, and debates.

"This study, while it frequently cites NBC's owned stations positively, doesn't tell the full story of our, or any other station's, coverage. Ignoring morning, afternoon and weekend political specials and newscasts, not to mention our extensive website coverage, shortchanges the scope of our local political coverage," said NBC in a statement.

"For example, the study completely missed the broadcast of the Miami mayoral debate on our NBC and Telemundo stations in that market.

"Studies that reduce local station coverage to grids, minimize stories to seconds, and suggest that viewers always want to hear about local races over national ones and about politics over other local news are subjective at best. We are proud of the excellent coverage the NBC Universal networks and owned stations delivered to viewers this campaign season, and we have heard from countless viewers who found our coverage both informative and invaluable."

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein also responded to the study Tuesday, saying broadcasters should be "embarrassed" by a study that shows broadcasters offering "only the most cursory coverage of local elections."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also use the study as to launch a bill to shorten broadcast license renewals.
Adelstein referenced McCain in his comments, saying: "In 2004, broadcasters took in $1.6 billion in political ads, but gave back only a pittance of real news coverage about the candidates who were filling their coffers.  Senator John McCain has shown tireless leadership in fighting for campaign reform. But unless the broadcasters heed his call to do better coverage on their own, the public is getting shortchanged by those who are using their airwaves for profit but apparently giving little back."
Last week, Adelstein suggested that broadcasters' alleged failure to resond to those calls figured into his decision not to grant multicast must-carry to stations.