Scripps TV stations made 1,682 minutes of airtime available to political candidates
Mon, February 14, 2005 by Mark Kroeger
CINCINNATI – The E. W. Scripps Company’s broadcast television station group made 1,682 minutes of free airtime available to 198 candidates for local, state and federal offices during the 2004 election campaigns. The free airtime was made available as part of the company’s Democracy 2004 project, a public discourse initiative that was created to enhance the political process in communities served by the nine network-affiliated Scripps stations. The free airtime was made available to the candidates in a variety of formats and aired during regularly scheduled newscasts as well as special Democracy 2004 public affairs programs. Highlights of the group’s free airtime coverage included: WCPO-TV in Cincinnati taped viewer questions that were addressed directly to candidates in 13 races in the station’s Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana coverage area. The five-minute question and answer segments aired daily from Sept. 20 through Oct. 27. WCPO also produced and aired a debate between candidates for the U.S. Senate in Ohio. The debate aired statewide on ABC affiliates, C-Span and National Public Radio affiliated radio stations.KNXV-TV in Phoenix aired an innovative segment in which candidates in two hotly contested local races answered questions directly from members of a family who had identified themselves as undecided voters. The candidates for county sheriff and attorney general accepted an invitation to be questioned at the family’s home. WXYZ-TV in Detroit ran 20 five-minute free airtime segments during the 7 p.m. newscast. The station also hosted four 30-minute issue-oriented debates within its “Spotlight on the News” public affairs program.WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., aired four debates between local and state candidates totaling 3.5 hours of airtime between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. The station also produced and hosted the U.S. Senate Democratic primary debate which was aired statewide on all Florida NBC stations.KJRH-TV in Tulsa, Okla., hosted a 45-minute debate between U.S. Senate candidates that featured questions from the live studio audience.Bill Peterson, senior vice president/broadcast for Scripps, said that based on the interest raised by Democracy 2004, the company has decided to sponsor a similar initiative during the 2006 election campaigns. The company first offered candidates free airtime during the 2000 election campaigns.“Scripps television stations place a high priority on providing vibrant forums for public discourse during election campaigns,” Peterson said. “We believe that making airtime available to responsible candidates is a fundamental responsibility that we have as trusted stewards of the public airwaves.”As part of the Democracy 2004 project, Scripps stations provided five minutes of free airtime to candidates nightly between 5 p.m. and 11:35 p.m. in the 30 days preceding the general elections. The stations also provided free airtime as needed during the 30 days preceding primary elections. Other key elements of Democracy 2004 included:Election-related content on Internet sites operated by the Scripps stations, including candidate positions on issues, voter registration information, information on the offices being sought and descriptions of political jurisdictional boundaries. Links to candidate Web sites also were included when available. Priority clearance in public service announcement inventories for “get out the vote” announcements during the 30-day period prior to the primary and general elections. Editorial concentration by the Scripps stations on key local issues during the 30 days leading up to the general election. News coverage was developed through an interactive process with local citizens and citizen groups. A careful review of the context and accuracy of political advertisements on television and the Internet. Special programming such as town meetings and debates.Making free airtime available to political candidates was one of the primary recommendations made in 2000 by the President’s Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters.The Scripps television stations are concentrated in the top 50 U.S. markets and reach about 10 percent of the nation’s television households. Participating in Democracy 2004 were the company’s six ABC affiliated stations, WXYZ-TV, Detroit; WCPO-TV, Cincinnati; WEWS-TV, Cleveland; WFTS-TV, Tampa, Fla.; WMAR-TV, Baltimore; and KNXV-TV, Phoenix. Also participating were the company’s three NBC affiliated stations, WPTV-TV, West Palm Beach, Fla.; KSHB-TV, Kansas City, Mo.; and KJRH-TV, Tulsa, Okla.About ScrippsThe E.W. Scripps Company is a diverse media concern with interests in national lifestyle television networks, newspaper publishing, broadcast television, television retailing, interactive media and licensing and syndication. All of the company’s media businesses provide content and advertising services via the Internet.In addition to the broadcast television station group, Scripps is organized into the following operating divisions. Scripps Networks, including the company’s growing portfolio of popular lifestyle television networks. Scripps Networks brands include Home & Garden Television, Food Network, DIY Network, Fine Living, Great American Country (GAC) and HGTVPro. Scripps Networks Web sites include FoodNetwork.com, HGTV.com, DIYnetwork.com, fineliving.com and gactv.com. Scripps Networks programming can be seen in 86 countries.Scripps Newspapers, including daily and community newspapers in 19 markets and the Washington-based Scripps Media Center, home to the Scripps Howard News Service. Scripps newspapers include the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel and the Ventura County (Calif.) Star. Shop at Home Network, the company’s television retailing subsidiary, which markets a growing range of consumer goods directly to television viewers and visitors to the Shop At Home Web site, shopathometv.com. Shop At Home reaches about 54 million full-time equivalent U.S. households, including 5 million households via five Scripps-owned Shop At Home affiliated television stations.United Media, a leading licensing and syndication company. United Media is the worldwide licensing and syndication home of Peanuts, Dilbert and about 150 other features and characters.