WMU News

TV coverage of political conventions declines

Aug. 2, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Television networks have scaled back on coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions this year, but before you blame the media, consider the parties' own culpability, says WMU Associate Professor of Political Science John A. Clark.

"It's largely the parties' own fault," he says. "The parties took advantage of the free airtime allotted to them and so the networks scaled back. The conventions aren't newsworthy anymore; they've become more or less scripted advertisements for the campaign."

Clark, who wrote and presented a 1997 paper titled "The Unconventional Convention: Coverage of the 1996 Republican National Convention" that examined how TV coverage has changed the conventions, says that because the presidential nominees have been decided during the primaries the conventions don't have much attraction to television viewers -- a death knell in a ratings-driven industry.

"I think of it as watching an awards show where you already know who won all the awards," Clark says. "You might tune in to see what people are wearing or if there's a speech by someone you want to hear or see, but you don't tune into see who won." Clark says.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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