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California TV Ignored Gov. Race

January 12, 1999

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ California TV stations reaped tens of millions of dollars by saturating the airwaves with paid political ads last fall, but their news departments practically ignored the governor’s race.

TV stations in the state’s biggest media markets devoted less than one-third of 1 percent of their news programs to the nation’s most important gubernatorial race, according to the study by the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication.

Furthermore, two-thirds of the coverage focused on political strategy and insider maneuvering, rather than issues, said Matthew Hale, a researcher on the project.

Michael Reese, a California coordinator of the Alliance for Better Campaigns, which seeks to improve televised political coverage, said the study was ``startling to even those of us who suspected the worst.″

Hale and fellow researcher Martin Kaplan employed an outside service that monitored 8,664 hours of local news in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bakersfield, San Diego and Sacramento between Aug. 10 and Nov. 2.

They found that local coverage of the gubernatorial race between Republican Dan Lungren and the eventual winner, Democrat Gray Davis, amounted to 26 hours and 57 minutes, or .31 of 1 percent of all local news.

Kaplan and Hale said that even if they struck sports, weather and advertisements from the category of total programming, the proportion of political coverage would still be very low.

Between them, Davis and Lungren raised $60 million for their campaigns, most of which was spent on television advertising.

``We could do more coverage of politics and in particular of the gubernatorial race,″ said Ed Chapuis, news director at KCRA-TV in Sacramento. ``But it’s a two-way street _ we need to have more access to the politicians.″

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