Election prediction: Broadcasters lose


“For broadcasters, all three of these candidates would give you heartburn,” said Linda Douglass of National Journal as she and other veteran political reporters discussed the 2008 presidential race in a joint RTNDA/NAB session in Las Vegas. All of the candidates still in the presidential race have opposed any further easing of broadcast ownership rules. Speaking of presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Peter Maer of CBS News noted that “He’s come down pretty hard on the FCC over the years.” On the plus side, though, for broadcasters, Maer noted that all three support shield laws for journalists.

Panelists weren’t willing to call the tight Democratic nomination race, except to say that Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) campaign is effectively over should Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) pull off an upset in Pennsylvania, but they don’t expect that to happen and they’ll get to keep reporting on the contest for months to come. Are Democrats hurting their chances in November by having a prolonged fight for the nomination? Sam Donaldson of ABC News dismissed that notion, predicting that the party would come together, recalling two past elections in his long career when the battle for delegates dragged on through the California primary, then held in June. But since only one of those resulted in a Democratic victory he added a caveat, should there be actual violence. “I was gassed in Chicago. If I’m gassed in Denver I take my words back,” he said.

Although McCain has been polling pretty much even with either Democrat, John Harris of Politico.com said the momentum since the 2006 congressional election has been with the Democrats and they would have to work to lose this year’s presidential election. “I do think it’s entirely possible they are up for the job,” he quipped.

The panelists noted that the growth of the Internet and new media outlets has changed how they are doing their jobs. “I think I get emailed every half hour from someone at one campaign or the other,” said Ron Allen of NBC News. Donaldson noted that an endorsement of Clinton by Internet blogger Perez Hilton appeared to influence the youth vote in California. And Douglass noted that the furor in recent days about comments by Obama about small town people in Pennsylvania all began not with a traditional reporter, but with a posting by an Internet blogger.

RBR/TVBR observation:
At least broadcasters are getting extra ad revenues in a tough year from the prolonged Clinton-Obama battle. Otherwise, we would agree that broadcasters are pretty much guaranteed a tough time inside the beltway for the next four years. It is a lock that neither Clinton, Obama nor McCain will appoint an FCC Chairman favorable to broadcasters. Not only will there likely be no further crossownership easing or duopoly relief in small markets, where it is desperately needed – and, we would note, would actually improve local news coverage – but likely more anti-broadcaster crusades such as the current attempt to mandate and regulate localism.