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L.A. television news includes little local political coverage, study finds

March 12, 2010|By Greg Braxton

Local television viewers don't get much about city politics, budget woes or education on their sets but are fed plenty about crime, sports, weather and entertainment, according to a study released Thursday.

In an apparent bid to bolster ratings, TV news stations in Los Angeles are emphasizing crime and fluffier fare over nuts-and-bolts coverage of civic institutions, concludes a report that studied eight local TV stations and was prepared by the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.

The study, which looked at KABC, KCBS, KNBC, KTLA, KCAL, KTTV, KCOP and Spanish-language KMEX, found that an average half-hour newscast devoted just 22 seconds to government issues, including city budgets, healthcare, layoffs and law enforcement.

In contrast, crime stories received seven times more coverage, averaging close to three minutes.

Sports and weather took up the most time -- more than 3 1/2 minutes, and "soft-news," including human interest and "oddball stories," averaged almost 2 1/2 minutes.

"All the L.A. TV stations tell the Federal Communications Commission that they're serving the public interest," Martin Kaplan, USC Annenberg professor and director of the Lear Center who was the principal investigator of the study, said in a statement.

George Kieffer, a member of the Los Angeles Civic Alliance, which sponsored the study, said he hopes the lack of local civic coverage will make it harder for stations to obtain license renewals.

The study is based on an analysis of nearly 11,000 news stories contained within 1,000 half-hour segments on the stations during 14 days in August and September 2009.

A companion study also examined local coverage by the Los Angeles Times during the same 14-day period. The report found that while TV stations used 1.9 % of its news hole (minus ads and teasers) for coverage of local government, the Times used 3.3% of its news hole (minus ads and teasers) for coverage of local government.

greg.braxton@latimes.com

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