Campaigns spend $15.8M on Valley TV

By David Skolnick


With nine days to go before Election Day, the Youngstown TV network affiliates have already smashed the record for money spent on political commercials.

Political campaigns and organizations have spent $15,826,169 to air about 35,000 ads on the local affiliates.

And more could come in the final week.

“Viewers should expect to see virtually wall-to-wall political ads in most programs regardless of the time of day,” said Jack Grdic, general manager of 21 WFMJ-TV and WBCB, the local NBC and CW affiliates, respectively.

The previous record was the 2008 campaign in which $10.6 million was spent on Youngstown network affiliates.

Before that, $9.6 million was spent on those Mahoning Valley stations in 2004.

“It’s amazing and that’s just in this media market,” said Paul Sracic, chairman of Youngstown State University’s political science department.

Ohio is seen as a key — and to some, the key — battleground state in the presidential race between Barack Obama, the Democratic incumbent, and Republican Mitt Romney.

About $907 million has been spent on political ads so far this year nationwide with the most, $185 million, spent in Ohio, according to NBC.

“Ohioans have come to accept that we are a swing state and that we have a significant say in the outcome of this election,” Grdic said. “I have had a total of two viewer complaints regarding the volume of political ads. I am not at all suggesting that viewers like these ads, but I am suggesting they understand this comes with the territory of being the key swing state. As one caller stated to me, ‘At least we matter.’”

More money is raised than can be spent, Sracic said.

“There’s going to be a lot of money wasted,” he said. “Maybe we’re too obsessed with money in politics. They’ve spent so much money that it’s confusing and annoying voters.”

As for what organization is spending the most, the Obama campaign is at the top of the list with $4,380,580 spent on ads.

Romney’s campaign waited until late September to start TV affiliate commercials in the Youngstown market.

The campaign has spent $605,680 to date.

Romney’s campaign had relied on outside special-interest groups to carry the load in the Youngstown TV affiliate market.

At the top of that list is Crossroads GPS, which has spent $1,898,080 on ads that attack both Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Democratic incumbent.

Dave Coy, president and general manager of WKBN [CBS affiliate], WYTV [ABC affiliate], WYFX [Fox affiliate], and MyYTV, a broadcast syndication station, declined to comment on the political commercials.

About 75 percent of the local political ad money is going to two stations: $6,490,746 to WFMJ and $5,376,340 to WKBN.

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