Madison TV stations getting record political ad dollars in 2012 - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison TV stations getting record political ad dollars in 2012

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The close presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is a big reason why Madison TV watchers are seeing more political ads than ever before.

A recent survey by NBC News showed the Madison TV market is fifth in the entire country for the amount of presidential ads being aired, and the U.S. Senate race is also taking up a lot of air time.

Its all due to a record amount of spending, but not from traditional sources.

"In this market right now, its about two-thirds to one-third, two-thirds outside group, one-third candidate spending," explained Bruce Briney, General Sales Manager at WKOW-TV.

All of the Madison TV stations have combined to take in a total of more than $24 million so far this year.

While the failed recall of the Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) contributed to that total, $16 million of it has come in since July 1st.

The total political TV ad spending for all of 2008 in Madison was less than $7 million.

"In the wake of Citizens United, we're really seeing something different than we've seen before," said Michael Wagner, a UW Professor and an expert on political communications.  "Whether or not its going to have a big effect on the election I think is another question, but in terms of ad dollars, we've never seen anything like this."

That 2010 Supreme Court ruling allows corporations and unions to contribute to outside political ads.

That ruling and the close nature of the races in Wisconsin are why viewers just can't get away from the ads.

"You look at most of your newscasts, six o'clock newscast, ten o'clock newscast, at least half of those ads are political, either candidate or issue ads," said Briney.

But what's still unclear is whether all that money will truly impact the final outcome of the elections.

"These advertisements aren't persuading very many people," said Professor Wagner.  "One thing that they're doing is sending a clue to all voters, that 'hey, these elections are really close,' which actually will likely have the perverse effect of driving voter turnout up.  If the election's gonna be close, there's a reason for me to show up."

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