Media, Money & Democracy: Political Campaign Advertising and Hawaii Television News in the 2012 Elections

In March, Media Council Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii released their study, "Media, Money & Democracy: Political Campaign Advertising and Hawaii Television News in the 2012 Elections." The study shows that Hawaii voters saw more ads than information when watching televised news broadcasts just prior to the primary and general elections in 2012. Not surprisingly--the news media does not like to talk about how its business intersects with news coverage--the study got little attention in mainstream print and television news. But, we're in the middle of another election cycle, and it seems the study is as relevant as ever. So, if you're interested you can find the study here along with a companion news release from Chris Conybeare, president of Media Council Hawaii, about the study. Media Money release 3.29.14

Media and Money Project report 3.20.14Media and Money Project report 3.20.14

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Will Your Phone Tell You How to Vote?

Like an oncoming storm seen in the distance, SuperPAC advertising dollars have some of us worried about where, and how deep, this precipitation will penetrate our media spheres in the coming months. As voters we can expect an influx of candidate ads in print, television radio and online this election cycle. But aside from a campaign robo-call, I have yet to consider the mobile advertising inplications of the campaigns. Today's, New York Times' Media Decoder blog post highlights 2011 mobile advertising revenue and raised my eyebrows.

Citing the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report, "Mobile experienced the fastest growth of all categories – triple-digit growth year-over-year – up 149 percent to $1.6 billion in full-year 2011 from $0.6 billion in 2010." This increase in mobile advertising is included in the online advertising revenue which was $31.74 billion in 2011. At this level, Tanzina Vega reports, online is now directly competitive with cable advertising revenue ($30 billion in 2011), and broadcast ad revenue ($38.5 billion).

What this can mean for advertisers, like political candidates and their PACs, is that online advertising is making a competitive number of impressions on the marketplace. So if we're getting ready to batten down the hatches when the windfall of campaign ads canvas the airwaves, does that mean we'll have to delete our favorite apps and bookmarks from our mobile phones to avoid all these ads? Call me anxious, but this data seems to support a wellspring of ad opportunity for marketers and potential policymakers.

Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Launches SuperPAC Ad Rocket at PBS

Aside the news of North Korea's fireworks show failed rocket launch, a recent ruling in political advertising is threatening regime change in sovereign American. The New York Times reported that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed an old ruling "that public television and radio stations could not be prohibited from broadcasting paid political advertisements."

The ruling would allow organizations like SuperPACs, to begin advertising on public TV and radio stations. On the three-judge panel,  the justices were split, reported David Lieberman of Deadline New York. "Judge Richard Paez said, in a dissent, that 'for almost 60 years, noncommercial broadcasters have been effectively insulated from the lure of paid advertising.'”

In Reuters' report, American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein, is quoted saying, the decision could "fundamentally change the character of public television and radio." The FreePress has already begun an effort urging supporters to sign a petition to stop "polluting public programming with these misleading and negative ads" by SuperPACs.

New Reports Reveal Relationship of Money & Politics, Move for Online Info of TV Ads

This American Life has an in-depth episode up on money in politics from last week provides a window into this commonly misunderstood part of politics. Listen here. This is a quote from Sen. Russ Feingold in the latter part of the program during his interview with Sen. John McCain.

"...Well, it's never been this way, since 1907. It's never been the case that when you buy toothpaste or detergent or a gallon of gas, that the next day that money can be used on a candidate that you don't believe in. That's brand new. That's never happened since the Tillman act and the Taft Hartley Act. And so, people have to realize this is a whole new deal. It's not business as usual..."

Related, The New York Times reported yesterday that the FCC " is moving forward with a plan to make local television stations post information about political advertising on a central Web site." Click through the MCH blog archive and you'll see more background on this issue.



New Actions to Amend TV Ad Buys and Campaign Finance Disclosure

The Campaign Legal Center urged their membership in a release today to support an amendment to require disclosure of groups buying television advertisements, such as political action committee's. From the release:

The amendment to improve transparency in federal elections was introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).  The underlying bill has drawn criticism that it will impede the FCC’s ability to protect consumers but this amendment would require groups running political ads on TV to disclose their all contributors of more than $10,000 and place a list of these funders in the political files of the broadcast stations running the ads.

The Campaign Legal Center is a Washington, D.C.-based, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which works in the areas of campaign finance and elections, political communication and government ethics. In addition to the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, the Sunlight Foundation, the League of Women Voters, Democracy 21, Public Citizen and Common Cause are all backing Rep. Eshoo's amendment.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 28th at noon ET (6 a.m. HST) Common Cause is holding a webinar entitled, Only People Are People: Amend 2012 for overturning Citizens United.  Common Cause’s national chairman, Robert Reich, will be joined by national director of Amend 2012, Derek Cressman and pollster Joshua Estevan Ulibarri. The webinar will focus on restoring "everyday Americans to our rightful place at the center of our politics."


Renewed Pressure for TV Stations to Share Political Ad Info

Today at the New York Times' Media Decoder Blog, Brian Stelter's post acknowledged a new focus to get TV stations to open up their political advertising information online. Stelter leads,

Local broadcasters, by law, have to disclose the identities of those who buy political advertisements as well as detailed information about the purchases. They print out the data and store it at their offices for the public to see, theoretically. But few members of the public ever get a chance to.

In late October last year, the FCC introduced a proposal to require TV stations to post their public inspection files online for easier access.  Since then, the effort to see these disclosures during the 2012 election cycle has been building. FreePress released Citizens Inundated,  a report on political advertising in January, which we wrote about here. Earlier this week, a Bloomberg editorial called for broadcasters to take political advertising data 'out of the cabinet' and put onto the web.

The [FCC] proposal has been met with predictable wails. Deploying the partisan cliche of the season, Robert McDowell, the sole Republican of the FCC’s three commissioners -- two short of its five-person mandate -- has called it a “jobs destroyer.” On the other hand, Hearst Television Inc.warned that the change from paper to digital could require as many as four new full-time employees per station, costing each station as much as $140,000 per year...Neither claim is credible.

In the ProPublica post by Daniel Victor that Stelter references, is an anecdote suggests that foul play in unreported station income:

Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, found that $70 million in advertising had been unreported from 2000-10 in Michigan.[emphasis ours] He got that number by personally examining public files, at one point driving 14 hours for a 15-minute visit to a station.

Bloomberg's editorial closed with:

Given the shabby state of campaign-finance disclosure, the FCC shouldn’t wait until after November to adopt its sensible idea. For the next election cycle, it should require digital disclosure by large cable and radio stations. The expense is not great. The need is.

Media Council Hawaii agrees. We'll be participating in national efforts to collect data on political advertising money in Hawaii media, including station visits to inspect public files. Stay tuned to the page in the next few weeks to learn how you can become involved in our project.

ProPublica Debuts SuperPAC Music Video

ProPublica, the self-described, "independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest," also has a keen eye for making music videos. Sure, 'noncandidate' or 'political action' committees may be difficult to explain to young voters, but drop in a hot beat and some neat graphics, and SuperPACs sound simple. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMvG54GjtRI

FlackCheck Wants SuperPacs to Stand By Their Ads

Last Friday, WNYC's On the Media featured Kathleen Hall Jamieson, of the Annenberg Public Public Center at the University Pennsylvania, and discussed a new SuperPac monitoring project by FlackCheck.org called, Stand By Your Ad.

The project is designed to hold third-party political campaign advertisements accountable for the (mis) information delivered in their content. FlackCheck has created an email and station database, so that viewers can request that their local stations quit carrying inaccurate, polarizing political advertisements. It's a smart effort to keep citizenry informed, and MCH will be working with FlackCheck to provide campaign Ad information this summer - so stay tuned!

  Also, if you're an OTM fan and appreciate the excellent reporting provided by Brooke and Bob at On the Media, please support their programming. Clicking the image to pledge directly.

#UNZ12: Unconferenz Highlights

This past Saturday, Burt Lum and Ryan Ozawa held the 5th annual Unconferenz at Kap'iolani Community College, and once again spurred great conversation on technology in Hawaii. In addition to all to the photos and other media that will surely come out of the event, Gee Why's Storify is a neat piece that drew the day together, and there's Ustream footage of the Ignite session online as well. You can also check out our twitter feed for more notes from the discussions. In the following, I've provided a few highlights from my day there as a first-time attendee. Because issues of interest to the Media Council were slated for the same room, I was in one place almost all day. Fortunately, a number of others selected a similar schedule and kept conversation ripe throughout the day. The morning sessions I attended seemed to run in an interesting chronological and ideological order:

The first session was centered around social innovation; ways to engage and activate a community on and offline. This discussion began in on agricultural issues, but quickly grew into other areas when Kevin Vaccarello of Sustain Hawaii brought up the idea of achieving a 'triple bottom line' through education, innovation and advocacy. The concept being that, in working toward these three goals, an organization can help educate a public, provide entrepreneurship and business opportunities through innovations, and advocate for their cause to create policies for governance.  The triple bottom line was a good foundation for the subsequent session on Internet Activism & Democracy.

Dan Leuck and Peter Kay  helped continue the social innovation conversation into voter action in Hawaii. They specifically welcomed Civil Beat Editor, John Temple, for the work his media outlet provides to Hawaii voters. Improving Hawaii's low voter turn-out, Temple said is one of his goals for Civil Beat. With a number of web developers in the room, ideas for helping voters identify with candidates, ranged from infographs to facebook updates and applying concepts from dating sites to match issue interests between candidates and voters. Soon, discussions turned to action in the next session.

In the third morning session, the Hawaii Innovation Alliance (which grew out of the #HiTechTown talk ) made an ambitious effort, amid a room full of contributors, to draft a charter. Even Rep. Gene Ward showed up to add his insight to the discussion. While some progress was made, debate over semantics was an obstacle. From my own seat, it was neat to see a room full of independent contractors try to find a bi-partisan common ground in their establishment of a guild/trade association. One issue for action, that I think many HIA members have a stake in, is the increased speed and access of broadband services in the state.

After lunch, the future of Hawaii's broadband infrastructure was discussed with several experts in the room. Kiman Wong (Oceanic), Yuka Nagashima (High Tech Development Corp.), Gordon Bruce and Forest Frizzell (City & County of Honolulu) lead the discussion with contributions from knowledgeable participants who have worked, or are currently working, in this industry. With nearly all participants present IRL (in real life) and online, wifi capabilities at the conference were noticeably burdened by the data traffic. This proved to be the common concern of the session, that improvement in Hawaii's broadband is desired, or necessary.  Disagreement, however, came upon ways to connect to, or improve upon, current infrastructure. Gordon Bruce's decades of experience in this industry was particularly insightful for understanding the relationships between telecom providers and the state.

The day closed out with a presentations by Code for America Fellows and Ignite Honolulu. For me, these presentations exemplified the past and current successes of the Unconferenz, while displaying a consistent trait in the tech community - a potential for future opportunities.

Thanks again to Burt, Ryan and everyone who helped put the event together.