The average television viewer is a passive consumer of political advertising, watching ballgames or sitcoms when the latest partisan pitch comes on.
That's about to change. In another sign that the Internet is taking over the world, a new Web site next week will offer users as many 90-second videotaped spots as the presidential candidates want to provide. The service will add congressional and gubernatorial contenders early next year.
Why would normal people (that is, non-journalists) click on FreedomChannel.com for doses of political propaganda? Founder Doug Bailey, a former media consultant who created the Hotline, a political digest, says they can seek out spots on the issues they care about, from gun control to Social Security.
"The challenge for an admaker is to create such an entertaining or combustible mixture that you won't go off somewhere else," he says. "That's one reason why ads are as negative as they are." In a possible check on negativity, Freedom Channel will require only that the candidates deliver the messages themselves on camera--no off-screen narrators or fancy footage.
The nonprofit venture, backed by the Freedom Forum and other foundations, will also carry the candidates' regular TV spots, which would not be under any restrictions. Ads from lobbying and advocacy groups will also be welcome.
Such narrowcasting is becoming increasingly important to marketers as well as political campaigns. Rather than spending big bucks to reach masses of people who couldn't care less, the Web delivers smaller groups of folks motivated enough to double-click on the information.
Says Bailey: "Most candidates, most consultants, most campaigns perceive this as a world they have to be able to play in."
Norwood's Health Care Fete
Last month, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) attracted a lot of attention for breakfasting with health care lobbyists at the Capitol Hill Club on the same day the House took up managed-care reform.
This month, GOP dissident Rep. Charles Whitlow Norwood Jr. (Ga.), whose patients' rights bill Hastert opposed, is having his own fund-raising fete there.
All 19 Republicans who supported the more sweeping health care bill sponsored by Norwood and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) have been invited to the club for a fund-raiser this week that will feature the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association, among others.
Norwood said he arranged the fund-raiser to help the Republicans who sided with him in the tough vote over managed care, adding that plenty of medical groups were happy to contribute.
"It's the only thing I can do, other than throwing a barbecue," he said. "Everybody wants to say, 'We know you did the right thing and we know it's going to cost you big time, so maybe we can offset that a little bit.' "
Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Rep. Charles Whitlow Norwood Jr. invited 19 allies to fund-raiser.