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Media Moguls Cash in on another Election

No matter what you think about political campaigns, most would certainly agree that they are very expensive. The networks and cable broadcasters have reaped huge profits from the carnival cycle of campaigning entertainment. Civility is simply not good for business. Enlightened discourse is boring and the high moral plane is only good for losers. Much like watching the carnage from a war zone or street riots in the hood, the TV cameras focus on the most controversial confrontations and ignore calls of cooperation. Politics is just too good of a blood sport to allow a modifying influence to temper down the mudslinging. 

Public interest in this Presidential Campaign can be gauged from the crowds that actually assemble to listen to the stump speeches. The ranks are small for those low energy same old types and heard that before politicians. Contrast the throngs at a Trump or Sanders venue and it is impossible not to see the difference.

Viewing these events is broadcasted on TV, online videos and on mobile apps. Citizen journalists have invaded the arenas and town halls and provide their own version of unfiltered interaction. So what exactly is the role of the media moguls in this money pit of paid ads?

The tech set over at Wired believes that Political Ad Spending Online Is About to Explode.

“THE DAYS OF the TV attack ad are far from over. But a new report from a group that tracks ad spending shows that digital ads may soon play just as important a role for political campaigns.

In 2016, political ad spending will reach a record high of $11.4 billion, 20 percent more than was spent back in 2012, according to Borrell Associates, a research firm. It’s a huge jump, but what’s more notable is just how that money will be spent. About $1 billion will be spent on digital media, a nearly 5,000 percent increase from the measly $22.25 million spent on digital ads back in 2008. And that’s only the beginning.

According to the report, spending on digital media by the time of the 2020 presidential election cycle will explode to nearly $3.3 billion dollars. That will still trail the current $8.5 billion spent on broadcast television but not by nearly as much.

More than half of the $1 billion budget in 2016 will be spent targeting social media sites, the report predicts. But even with such huge growth, these figures show just how far behind the political world is compared to the private sector. As the report notes, $1 billion is still roughly 9.5 percent of campaigns’ overall advertising budgets. In other industries, digital media often accounts for 30 to 50 percent of the money spent on ads.”

Voters need to keep in perspective that political ads are just one component of an election cycle. The cash machine that flows into the bank accounts of the media titans has more to do with their focus of coverage than any remnant of Edward R. Morrow journalism.

View the dinosaur media as the monopolist window on the world. The online upstart might provide an entrepreneurial touch to its delivery, but is it much different from the narrative that the party bosses spin out of their war rooms? The clear answer depends profoundly upon one’s own politics. The dozens of daily emails from newsletters and campaign operatives all want something other than informing you about public policy.

The mailings read like a script for the sequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The Ted Cruz slant on the campaign trail resembles little from what actually goes on. No matter the pitch, all want your money.

If this is retail politics done with a key stroke, the 21st Century will never again see a Eugene McCarthy or a Ron Paul. Television is certainly bad enough and the truly sane reduce their exposure to a minimum, but the Artificial Intelligence alternative has frightening implications for political campaigns.

When Google anticipates the exact concept one is looking for before it is typed into the search, one needs to take pause and ask, what is the value of conducting a permanent and absurd election crusade. The parameters of reality are fed to you as if you were a pig being fattened up for slaughter. Since turning off the news is an option from your remote control, the difficulty is how exactly can a desktop warrior or an iPhone addict escape the subtle political messages being pushed at you as part of the media package that is integral to your subscription?

If the trend in political ads is accelerating in the direction of cyber outreach, the profits of the tech giants may well become the engine of future political overload. Cashing in on the idiocy of political advertising is probably more in keeping with the ‘Greed is Good” mentality, than fostering civic responsibility.

Innovative enterprise is being lauded as Free Speech for professional politicians, and the sky is the limit to how much can be spent. However, the rational alternative is simple. Offer to serious and viable candidates free air time to state their positions.

The Realty TV circus that bemoans the Trump movement is just sour grapes. None of the dependency of 24/7 coverage would follow, if it did not bring in big ratings and major ad revenues. Look at it this way. The more people get active and involved with rallies and meetings, the greater the chance of drawing in a bigger audience in the hope of watching a train wreck.

This is not serious affairs of state, much less citizen participation. It is actually public exploration on the part of the media presstitutes. Elections should not be about paying tribute to the establishment gatekeepers to get favorable coverage, nor should it be about accepting corporate bribes to pay for the media ads.

Just maybe this should be one of the top issues during the remaining debates? Even so, the probability of one of the talking heads posing this question would be as unlikely as Fox News covering “The Donald” in a favorable light. 

James Hall – February 24, 2016


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