Television stations have simply never experienced anything like the flood of political ads hitting them in the 2012 election season. There are so many of them, and they are bringing in so much money, that local networks are taking drastic measures to handle them.
Twitter lit up on Wednesday over a Monday Washington Post story about what the influx of ads is doing to stations in the nation's capital. One channel is yanking episodes of "The Simpsons" and replacing them with an expanded edition of its newscast -- all to be able to air as many of the lucrative political ads as possible. The money coming in from ads has increased sixfold from 2008.
It's not hard to see why stations are bending over backwards to get the ads on television. When you factor in congressional, local and Super PAC ads, a lot of loot is coming into the network coffers. An estimated $3.3 billion is being spent on spots around the country. In Las Vegas, the New York Times reported, stations are cutting their news programs down to fit the ads in -- a thoroughly dispiriting state of affairs if ever there was one.
Even though it sometimes creates a bit of a sticky situation, stations are loath to turn away any money. In Roanoke, VA, a local network used the cash influx to reopen one of its bureaus and make a host of other improvements. But news divisions are also placed in the strange position of fact-checking ads that are then running around the clock on their stations. Some reports contend that most stations are doing a poor job of this.
Even if ads are debunked, they just keep airing -- creating the quite real possibility of a viewer being told an ad is a lie and then seeing that ad over and over again. Moreover, stations are rarely refusing to run ads, and a Free Press report estimated that, for every minute of ad-related news coverage, stations are airing 162 minutes of commercials.
Luckily for beleaguered residents of the swing states, it will all be over come November 7th.