In the lead-up to the 2014 midterm election, viewers in the Philadelphia media market, an area that covers parts of three states, saw 45 times as many political ads as they did news stories about politics and the election.
The figures come from a study by the Philly Political Media Watch Project, which found that in a nine-week period last fall, local stations received more than $14 million to air 11,937 political ads. Also important to note is 67 percent of these ads aired during news programs.
According to the study, political ads also received more air time than stories about fires, accidents and international news. Here's the breakdown:
"There were so many [ads] that, in some ways, journalism never had a fighting chance," the study says. "What does this mean for political communication and for what citizens learn about the candidates and advocates who vie for their attention, support, and money? The short answer is that political reality is bought."
The irony is that television stations are making money off these ads, which fund their news reporting, but, as the study notes, "stations have made no investment in producing stories that critically examine the ads that appear on their air." The ratio of political ads to news stories that specifically addressed issues raised in the ads was 174 to 1.
The types of political ads were determined largely on who put out the ad. The study found more than 40 percent of ads from candidates were positive ads about themselves, while about 70 percent of ads from PACs were attack ads.
It's a preview of what's to come in 2016, which is shaping up to be the most expensive election in history. And the trend on TV echoes what's going on in print and online media where politicians bypass the media by releasing news themselves and are selective with their media appearances. With enough money, TV ads and online followers, why do politicians need the pesky press anyway?