Politico is running a news article today titled, “TV stations love super PACs,” which examines the price differential between a candidate’s ad buy and a Super PACs. The article notes that:
Stations have to provide discounted rates to qualifying candidates running for all public offices. But they don’t have to give those same breaks to the super PACs and the nonprofit groups like American Crossroads, Restore our Future and Priorities USA that are spending millions of dollars on the election.
So that means Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can stretch their dollar more than Karl Rove or Bill Burton. And the influx of political ad spending from super PACs and outside groups is serving as a boon to broadcasters and their corporate owners.
For example, Romney paid just under $100,000 for 74 spots between July 30 and Aug. 26 to ABC affiliate WEWS in Cleveland. Crossroads GPS paid the same station $84,000 for only 48 spots in a shorter period of time – between July 30 and Aug. 20, according to records the station filed with the Federal Communications Commission.
While the news media (television, radio, and print) has certainly spent a considerable amount of time and resources covering the fundraising race, the question of who receives the money after it has finally been used on ads has been almost entirely absent. This is important, because in order to truly understand the full impact of Citizens United on the political system, we have to be able to see who else profits besides the candidates and their backers.
As the Politico piece points out, TV stations are making out like bandits in the era of Super PACs since they are now able to sell commercial spots at their regular market price without any interference with federal election regulations. But really, who are the TV stations? They’re mainly local stations that are network affiliated and whose ownership can be small time media companies, but are usually big media outfits like Hearst, Disney/ABC, and CBS. These are large corporations who run what we know as mainstream media and who operate the majority of news operations that we tune into on a daily basis.
This leads to a very simple question which must be asked – but has not been – if we seriously want to discuss the influence of money on the political process: How can we trust the media to accurately report on Citizen’s United if their continued existence is now being financially backed and guaranteed by the very same policy that they are claiming to be reporting impartially?