When you stack that up against the thousands of political ads they aired, this shortfall in reporting is appalling. For example:
The Super PACs vs. Justin Bieber: The hundreds of hours of local news that aired in the two weeks prior to Wisconsin's June 5 recall election included no stories on the 17 groups most actively buying time on Milwaukee's ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates. While these stations were ignoring the impact of political ads, they found time to air 53 local news segments on Justin Bieber.
Fact-Check Fail: The ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates in Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Milwaukee did not once fact-check the claims made in political ads placed locally by the nation's top-spending Super PACs and independent groups, even though these groups had spent tens of millions of dollars on frequently deceptive ads in those markets.
Hush Money: Cleveland's four affiliate stations provided no coverage of the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity, despite airing the group's anti-Obama attack ads more than 500 times. Americans for Prosperity has reportedly spent more than $1.5 million to place ads on Cleveland television stations.
News Out of Balance: Affiliate stations in Tampa were airing on average more than 200 political ads a day throughout August. Yet only one station, WTSP, devoted news time to fact-checking any of the most prominent groups buying these ads. In a single segment running less than 3 minutes they rated an Americans for Prosperity ad as false, a finding that didn't stop WTSP from running the group's anti-Obama ads more than 150 times that month.
This news neglect is endemic to every television market we've investigated thus far. (For more detail, see Left in the Dark)
In an ideal world, these stations would provide the kind of news and information that serve as an antidote to the misleading political messages most political ads spread.