California’s tradition of direct democracy once again is proving to be very lucrative for television stations and cable providers, with campaign committees connected to the 17 propositions on next month’s ballot spending millions to put their message out on the airwaves.
Campaign-finance disclosures due Thursday show that the main campaign committees supporting and opposing Nov. 8 ballot measures collectively had spent more than $445 million through Oct. 22. At least a quarter of that went to television ad expenses, but many payments were disclosed but not properly classified.
Detailed payee information, though, makes clear that the best-funded campaigns still rely on massive TV buys to win over voters in the sprawling state, home to some of the country’s priciest media markets.
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The pharmaceutical industry-funded campaign opposing Proposition 61, which would limit what the state could pay for prescription drugs, has spent at least $42 million on direct and indirect payments to TV stations, cable companies and other television firms, according to the campaign’s filings. The hospital industry’s yes-on-52 campaign has paid at least $46 million for television.
And the tobacco industry’s campaign against Proposition 56, which would raise tobacco taxes, has paid TV stations and cable-related firms at least $37 million, the filings show.
The reports underscore how campaigns remain a biannual bounty of revenue for broadcast TV stations. KABC-TV in Los Angeles had been paid almost $16.1 million, the most in the state, and KNBC-TV in Los Angeles ranked second with $11.5 million.
In the Sacramento market, KCRA-TV had been paid almost $5.7 million, fourth-most in the state. KOVR-TV had received $3.9 million, KXTV-TV had been paid almost $3 million, and KTXL had received more than $1.9 million.
The ad totals are sure to grow, as some ballot measures make last TV and radio pushes and stations get paid for ad time that has been reserved.
Moreover, the totals do not reflect TV advertising in legislative races, nor the millions being spent to advertise in competitive House races, such as Sacramento County’s 7th Congressional District contest between Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, and Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican.