Thankful for campaign season

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With elections in its three states tightening its broadcast advertising inventory, the Quincy, Ill.-Hannibal, Mo.-Keokuk, Iowa, market is having a good fall. It couldn't have come at a better time.

Station managers across the U.S. know life can be easier in even-numbered years, given Olympics and most elections. But, in '01, the No. 164 DMA took a sizable revenue hit, dropping more than 25% from 2000—among the biggest drops in any market in the U.S. As in all markets, 9/11 and the general economic slump were factors; locally, agribusiness consolidation has hurt the local economy and local advertising.

A couple of nearby casinos, Mark Twain's hometown of Hannibal and Quincy's historic late-19th century architecture bring a fair number of tourists. But 2001, local execs say, was a killer in several ad categories, including the all-important automotive.

WGEM-TV owner Quincy Newspapers owns much of Quincy media: the station, newspaper The Quincy Herald-Whig, AM and FM radio stations, and two local cable channels, with considerable synergy for local news and sports. "We do a lot of resource-trading with the newspaper," says GM Leo Henning. "People from WGEM-TV file stories for the newspaper."

While WGEM-TV, notes KHQA-TV GM Frank Brady, clearly "has some economies of scale and some resources we don't have," his station has kept its top-market position. The two local VHF network affiliates maintain a close and collegial battle for the top spot, with WGEM-TV reigning as No. 1 and KHQA-TV showing considerable strength in recent books. Both stations offer local programming and highly rated local news.

Both stations take pride in supporting community organizations and in promoting candidate-centered discourse in their political coverage. Each praises the other's effort as well. "This," says Henning, "is the way local broadcasting is supposed to be."

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