New Report Shows Big-Money Politics and Broadcast Media Are Undermining Democracy

'Citizens Inundated' documents how the media profits from elections, even as news coverage shrinks
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Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 x 35

WASHINGTON -- On Thursday, Free Press released Citizens Inundated, a report that follows the money trail from big-spending political donors to the bank accounts of the nation's largest broadcast companies.

The report sheds light on the ways in which the broadcast industry profits from elections while polluting political discourse and failing to cover important issues. Read Citizens Inundated here: http://www.freepress.net/citizens-inundated

"It's a corrupt process that enriches media execs while leaving voters awash in misinformation," says Timothy Karr, Free Press senior director of strategy and author of the report. "As a result of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, the wealthiest 1 percent now have unchecked power to pick and choose our nation's leaders. And they're spending the bulk of this money on the sort of political attack ads that misinform the viewing and voting public."

Companies like CBS Corp., News Corp. and Sinclair Broadcast Group are already dividing the spoils of an election year that will see unprecedented spending on political ads. They are expected to rake in more than $3 billion in political ad revenues.

"What they're not doing is letting viewers and voters in on the full story behind all these ads," Karr said. "Instead of exposing this runaway spending and separating fact from fiction in their news reporting, television broadcasters are lining their pockets and leaving the electorate none the wiser."

The report also makes recommendations for making television stations more accountable to viewers and voters. Below are a few of the recommendations Free Press makes in Citizens Inundated:

Make Political Ad Spending Information Fully Available Online: All FCC-licensed broadcast stations should fully disclose their “public inspection files” online. This material should include a political file that contains a full accounting of political-ad spending.

Expose the Money Behind Front Groups in the Body of the Ads: The true funders of political ads should no longer be able to hide behind front groups with misleading names. To promote increased transparency the FCC should require the body of the ads to feature a stand-alone disclaimer naming the top contributors to the organization or entity sponsoring the advertisement

Strengthen Limits to Consolidated Broadcast Ownership: As the FCC reviews its ownership rules in 2012, it must not consider any rules that would further concentrate media ownership. In particular, it must curtail the trend of cross-ownership that allows one company to own several broadcast stations and a major daily newspaper in a single market.

The full report can be read here: http://www.freepress.net/citizens-inundated

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Free Press does not support or oppose any candidate for public office. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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