TV Political Ad Spending Is Down

Never in history has so much money been spent on political advertising as in this election year, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at the books of Little Rock TV stations.

About 93 percent of the presidential campaign funds spent on TV ads has poured into the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

As in 2008, no presidential candidates have spent a dime on TV ads in the Little Rock market. Total TV ad spending was about $1.3 million in 2008 in Little Rock, and this year’s total is just under $1.5 million, including both the spring primary season and current general election spending.  

(Click here to view a chart of general election political ad spending in Little Rock)

The reasons for such lackluster receipts?

“Two key things,” said Chuck Spohn, general manager of 15 years for KLRT-TV, Channel 16. “There are no contested races at really any level. And secondly, there are no contested ballot issues.”

Mark Rose, general manager of KATV-TV, Channel 7, told Outtakes two years ago that 2010, with $8.9 million spent on TV ads in the Little Rock market just during the primary, was “without a doubt the largest political spending year ever.”

That’s far from the case in 2012.

“I would say it’s a less-than-average volume of spending on political,” Spohn said. “Not the lowest ever, but certainly close.”

Doug Krile, executive director of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association, said the TV ad spending bespeaks races that aren’t very competitive and candidates who haven’t raised much money.

The primary season this year saw a total of $711,904 in ad buys, and campaigns have so far invested $780,553 leading up to the general election. U.S. House candidate Tom Cotton’s campaign has been the biggest TV ad buyer, as of last week spending a total of $350,194 for the year.

While there is still time for more spending, most of Cotton’s spending was in the primary season. Leading the pack in spending during the general election season is Move Arkansas Forward, the organization promoting a ballot initiative that would increase the state sales tax by 0.5 percent to pay for highway construction bonds.

Second in election season spending is Americans for Prosperity, the national organization whose anti-tax commercials drew the ire of Gov. Mike Beebe.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.