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Sacramento Television Coverage of the November 2004 General Election: A Public Interest-Public Airwaves, Community-By-Community Campaign Project

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Publication Date: March 2005

Publisher(s): California Common Cause

Author(s): California Common Cause; Sacramento Media Group

Funder(s): California Common Cause

Funder(s): California Common Cause

Topic: Media, telecommunications, and information (Broadcasting)

Keywords: Public broadcasting; Elections


In the fall of 2004, the Sacramento Media Group (SMG), an association of concerned citizens including members of California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters Sacramento and Access Sacramento, the local public access cable television, joined a national campaign to evaluate how fairly and effectively local broadcast television stations used the public airwaves to educate voters about candidates and issues. The national campaign, coordinated by the Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition (PIPA), tried to convince broadcasters nationwide to air two hours per week of locally produced election coverage in prime time (5:30 -11:35 p.m.) during the six weeks prior to Election Day 2004. The two-hour standard represents approximately 5 percent of total prime-time hours.

SMG members also reviewed the public interest files of each station, files that are required
by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to keep an accounting of
each station's public service work. These files include viewers' comments as well as
listings of broadcasts that benefit the community, donations or contributions to local nonprofit causes, and revenues for campaign ads sold to candidates and committees.
In Sacramento, SMG concentrated on stations that produce local news shows: Channels 3,
10, 13, 19, 31 and 40. SMG members contacted and visited station managers at these
channels, except for Channel 13 which declined to participate. Most of the visited stations
followed up by submitting letters that described their election-related activities.