Originally, politics had to do with the Proprietors, then the immigrants, then the King of England, then the establishment of the nation. Philadelphia first perfected the big-city political machine, which centers on bulk payments from utilities to the boss politician rather than small graft payments to individual office holders. More efficient that way.
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Political campaign costs are mostly on TV costs. It has the effect of silencing TV news reporting.
If we must have a national debate about political campaign finances, with laws being proposed by candidates for office, perhaps it is time to say a few things that politicians are forced to skirt. About 75% of the campaign finance money is spent on television advertising.
The effect on television itself has not been mentioned. While the net revenues of television are simply astronomical, television news coverage is getting skimpier and skimpier. That's clearly not because they need to save money. It's because television is now in a position where it cannot afford to offend any politician by expressing opinions about current affairs. Both political parties in any local, state or national election have plenty of money to spend onTV advertising, and there is a significant risk to television revenue if they take any sides on any issue.
Meanwhile, television is one of the main factors in the decline of newspapers, who characteristically do take partisan sides. There can be lots of reasons why newspapers are more opinionated, but they have relatively little revenue to lose from political advertising, hence little to fear in the way of retaliation. But television has been stealing the advertising revenue of other sorts, forcing the newspapers to cut expenses. Between the two news sources, the effect has been to reduce the flow of news, one because it can't afford news, the other because it doesn't dare injure its golden goose. There once were forty newsmen assigned to cover Philadelphia City Hall. Now, there are five. What do you suppose that will do to the volume of corruption?
Curiously, the effects extend in other strange directions. Television has jacked up its prices for advertising in the month of October to the point where a lot of advertisers are forced out of the market. October is just before Christmas, the main retail selling period. That can't be very good for Christmas sales volume.
These things are beginning to attract attention from groups like the Committee of Seventy, who are starting a website of their own to fill the vacuum. There's been a lot of talk about internet blogs creating competition for the news. Maybe, the bloggers are just filling an unmet need.
Originally published: Thursday, June 22, 2006; most-recently modified: Thursday, May 02, 2019