Originally published: March 21, 2012
Last updated: April 4, 2012 - 8:35pm
Every local broadcast station has a repository of documents about political advertising that you have a legal right to see but can do so only by going to the station and asking to see “the public file.” These paper files contain detailed data on all political ads that run on the channel, such as when they aired, who bought the time and how much they paid. It’s a transparency gold mine, allowing the public to see how campaigns and outside groups are influencing elections. But TV executives have been fighting a Federal Communications Commission proposal to make the data accessible online.
They say making the files digital would be too burdensome — it “could well take hundreds of hours for a single station,” according to comments filed with the FCC by the National Association of Broadcasters. We tend to like the idea of public data being online. Since TV stations won’t put it online themselves, we decided to do it ourselves — and we want your help. Working with students at the Medill journalism school at Northwestern University, we looked at five local stations in the Chicago market. You can explore the results yourself: Here are detailed breakdowns of when the ads aired, during which programs, and how much each spot cost: Read the documents from the local affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and CW.
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