In Las Vegas, the News Don't Come Cheap

It’s a known fact that TV stations are hitting the jackpot this year when it comes to political ads. But one city is taking it to a whole new level.

The New York Times reported that Las Vegas has reached the top of the charts for the number of political ads aired — clocking in at about 10,000 ads per week, with at least 98 different ads in rotation.

That’s a whole lot of political propaganda, enough to daunt even the most stalwart of pundits. But here’s where things get worse: The Times reports that some local stations are shortening their news programs just to get all those ads on the air:

Local stations are shaving minutes off their news programs to accommodate the crush. Breaks during many popular network shows like Saturday Night Live are sold out between now and Election Day.

“We have a joke around here,” said Lisa Howfield, the general manager of KSNV, the NBC station. “Pretty soon we’re going to have such long commercial breaks that people are going to tune in and all they’ll hear is: ‘Hello, welcome to News 3. And goodbye.’”

It’s bad enough that stations are failing to cover the big-money groups behind all these ads (a recent Free Press report showed that Denver stations are providing 162 minutes of ads for every minute of related coverage).

Now it sounds like some stations are giving up entirely. And they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

When a TV station gets a broadcast license, it’s supposed to serve the needs of its community. Broadcasters have long argued that their exposés on car accidents, traffic and shootings do just that. But that kind of reporting falls far short of what’s needed.

Stations may cry foul at this critique and insist that they’re legally obligated to air ads from political candidates. But that’s just it: They’re legally obligated to air ads from political candidates. They’re free to reject ads from Super PACs and other outside groups.

This is pretty low, Vegas. You should know better.

Original photo by Flickr user Antoine Tavenaux

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