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Democratic Convention Signals TV Battles to Come

Aug 31, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The pitch and tone at the Democratic National Convention signals that the final two months of the campaign are going to be hard fought, with more TV advertising in more states than ever before.
David Plouffe, the campaign manager for Democratic nominee Barack Obama, told the convention the candidate intends to compete vigorously in 18 states—six more than were in play four years ago. That may mean a windfall for TV stations there.
The additional states in play include Virginia (benefiting stations in Washington, D.C., as well), Alaska, North Carolina, Georgia and New Mexico.
The Democrats did not indicate that Republican nominee Sen. John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate would alter the status of Alaska as a battleground state.
At the convention, Sen. Obama touched briefly on media policy issues, nestling a reference to parents’ responsibility for monitoring their children’s TV viewing habits into a discussion of personal responsibility.
“We must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents, that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do homework. … Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility—that’s the essence of America’s promise,” Sen. Obama said Thursday in his acceptance speech.
His decision not to delve deeply into media issues indicates that broader themes of health care, tax policy, foreign policy and jobs will take priority during the campaign. The Democratic Party platform, however, supports reforming the way the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department look at media issues.
Republicans have yet to raise media issues prominently in the campaign, though Sen. McCain is a former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which handles the topic. He has repeatedly complained about cable price hikes.
Sen. McCain at the Republican National Convention this week is expected to focus on judgment issues and Mr. Obama’s lack of experience.
A draft of the Republican National Committee’s platform issued last week made no mention of media issues.
The Democratic convention and Sen. Obama closed on a historic high in more ways than one Thursday night. Nielsen Media Research estimated 38 million viewers watched the candidate’s acceptance speech across 10 networks, a convention record.
Media and political pundits will be watching to see if the Republicans and their candidate can generate similar tune-in next Thursday.
Throughout the week, the broadcast networks often struggled to build and maintain ratings momentum, while the cable news networks dominated with their blanket coverage.
While CNN frequently beat at least two of its broadcast network counterparts during the 10-11 p.m. hour and beat everyone during Sen. Obama’s speech Thursday night with more than 8 million viewers, Fox News, not accustomed to trailing CNN except during big Democratic events, expects to be a more powerful viewer magnet this week.
(Michele Greppi contributed to this report.)

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