If networks don’t cover conventions, do they make a sound?

by on August 31, 2004

Rudy Giuliani gave a pretty good speech last night, IMHO. But, alas for the GOP, the speech got cold-shouldered from the broadcast networks. Flipping around the bacast dial during the speech, I found Monday night football, a local weather report, and one local broadcast report from the convention floor–but even that didn’t show the speech. Time to take up arms against networks disregard of the body politic? No.

We heard a lot about the networks lack of responsibility, etc., during the Democratic convention, with much gnashing of teeth about how media concentration has allowed networks to ignore events like this. What hogwash. First, viewers aren’t being prevented from seeing this stuff–they simply aren’t being forced to, a big difference. And those that want to see it can, and do. Numbers from the Dem convention earlier this summer show a big increase in cable convention viewship compared to 2000 (led by Fox with 2.1 million average viewers, about half that of the broadcast networks). Even more interesting, as argued earlier this month by Peter Johnson in USA Today, simple TV viewership numbers may not be suffient to measure the impact or reach of news events anymore. People hear, talk, and discuss news events through a number of outlets today.

Quoting from the USA Today story: “Just because Americans don’t tune in for NBC’s or ABC’s analysis doesn’t mean they don’t care,” says Brian Stelter, editor of mediabistro.com… Last week, “I woke up to newspaper headlines and morning show segments about the convention. As I rode into work, the local deejay joked about it. At lunch, I talked about the speeches with colleagues. Before dinner, I checked AOL to preview the night’s schedule. None of those actions were recorded by Nielsen. But they all contributed to my awareness of the convention.”

My guess is that–despite the handwringing–American democracy isn’t threatened by reduced broadcast coverage of such things. And perhaps, by making political parties work a bit harder for voters attention, it may make democracy a bit stronger.

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