McCain, Powell Send Letter to Broadcasters Calling for Increased Election News Coverage

June 16, 2004

Washington, DC – Senator John McCain and Chairman of the Federal Communications Committee, Michael Powell sent the following letter to major broadcasters in the country calling for an increase in election news coverage and public affairs programming. The letter was sent to Peter Chernin of News Corporation, Edward Fritts of the National Association Broadcasters, Robert Iger of the Walt Disney Company, Leslie Moonves of Viacom, and Bob Wright of NBC. The text of the letter follows: “Too often, policymakers dispatch letters to business leaders expressing displeasure with an industry’s actions. Today, we have the opportunity to send a letter applauding some of your industry for their actions and challenging the remainder to follow a similar course. “We understand that several broadcasters have pledged to increase their political news coverage and public affairs programming during this election year. We commend these broadcasters and now challenge those who are not already doing so to step up and take similar actions to raise the level of public discourse during the election season ahead. “Broadcast television continues to be the primary source of campaign and election information for the American public and the medium that voters find most helpful in selecting a candidate according to the Pew Research Center and the National Association of Broadcasters. However, in the seven weeks leading up to election day 2002, more than half of all top-rated local news broadcasts did not have any campaign coverage whatsoever according to a report by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and the University of Wisconsin. “The same study also found that when local broadcasters did air campaign stories on local news broadcasts, only 24 percent of the stories were about issues. The majority of the stories focused on campaign strategy and polling data. While this information is newsworthy and interesting, it does not provide voters with the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision on whether to vote for a candidate. Stories on campaign platforms and in depth coverage of candidate debates truly assist voters in making an educated choice. “Therefore, we challenge all local broadcast television and local broadcast radio stations to ensure they are providing their local communities with significant information on the political issues facing the community, candidates’ campaign platforms, and candidate debates during this election year. We hope those in your industry not already offering such news coverage agree to accept the challenge and we look forward to hearing from all broadcasters on their specific plans to further educate voters during this election year. “
Click here for a PDF version of letter.