Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2018

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Study raps Channel 3’s coverage of campaigns

A study lambasted KVBC-TV Channel 3 for averaging only 31 seconds of campaign coverage each night on local newscasts in the month leading up to November's general election.

The report released today by the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center and the Alliance for Better Campaigns in Washington measured 74 television stations nationwide that received the most political advertising money in 58 major markets. The average political coverage among those stations was 1 minute, 14 seconds per evening.

The study, sponsored locally by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, found that most of the stations provided no more than 45 seconds total of political coverage on their 5 p.m. through 11:30 p.m. local newscasts. A separate study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that the networks averaged only 64 seconds of campaign coverage on nightly newscasts in the 30 days leading up to the election.

KVBC was the only Las Vegas station in the university study because it had reaped the largest amount of political advertising revenue in the Southern Nevada market.

"Channel 3 can do a better job of covering political races and management knows it," said Paul Brown, Southern Nevada director of the alliance. "The other local network affiliates are doing a better job."

The alliance, which represents labor, women, minorities and environmentalists, supports a proposal that television stations devote at least five minutes each night to campaign coverage in the 30 days before an election. That idea was first proposed in 1998 by the Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters, chaired by then-Vice President Al Gore.

KVBC general manager Gene Greenberg said this morning that he did not agree with the methodology used in the report.

"We did quite a bit of issue coverage," Greenberg said. "They're talking only about candidate discourse."

Greenberg said that as the election drew closer, there wasn't much new to cover. But he did say that his station devoted 90 minutes to a debate between U.S Senate candidates John Ensign and Ed Bernstein.

Greenberg told the Sun in May that TV stations have to weigh political information with keeping viewer interest.

"If viewers are told that for the next five minutes we will air a debate between two local candidates, they'll probably turn to 'South Park,' " Greenberg said at the time. "But I still think all the stations do a good job of covering races."

Few Nevada political campaigns received much media attention last fall because most of the races were projected either as one-sided or lacking in divisive issues. In the general election, only one of the four Clark County Commission races was close and all but one incumbent state legislator from Southern Nevada who sought re-election was successful.

But Brown said some of those races may have been closer had local television devoted more time to political coverage.

"Most of the local TV coverage was political advertising watch coverage, but by definition those who had the most money to run ads were dictating the issues," he said. "So you saw ads about prescription drug coverage but you didn't hear anything about clean water or air."