Campaign group rips Calif. coverage

Watchdog blasts ABC, CBS, NBC

WASHINGTON — Died-in-the-wool Dems may still be licking their wounds over the California recall results, but one nonpartisan group is lashing out at the major news nets.

The Alliance for Better Campaigns slammed ABC, CBS and NBC for airing more than four times as much news about the California recall than they aired about all 2002 gubernatorial races combined.

“It’s a shame that it takes a movie-star candidate to get the media to pay attention to campaigns,” lamented Meredith McGehee, who heads the watchdog group. “When it comes to covering elections, most broadcasters are AWOL.”

The nets defended their coverage of the unprecedented recall story, which has also received serious attention in major newspapers and magazines. “The California recall was one of the most extraordinary political stories of our time and it got — and deserved — a lot of attention,” an ABC spokesman said.

169 vs. 40 minutes

McGehee referred to a study released by the Tyndall Report, a New York monitoring group, which found that ABC, CBS and NBC aired 169 minutes of stories about the recall during the unprecedented two-month run-up to the election compared to just 40 minutes of news in 2002 about the 36 gubernatorial races. More than one-third of the recall stories focused exclusively on governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

The group supports a bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would require broadcasters to air at least two hours per week of candidate-or issue-oriented programming in the weeks leading up to an election.

Although the measure faces long odds in Congress, it has the support of campaign finance reformers because it would also allow qualifying candidates who raise money in small-dollar contributions to earn advertising time; would close loopholes in the broadcast advertising rates system; and would require greater disclosure of rates that broadcast stations charge candidates for ad time.

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