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But 2000 nothing like statewide races in 1999

Campaign ads boost revenue for stations

JACKSON — It may be that many local broadcasters around the country benefited greatly from political advertising this year, but in Mississippi, although there was

money coming in, the numbers this year were nowhere near 1999, which saw a number of heated — and costly — statewide races.

Maggie Clark, with Maggie Clark Media Services, buys advertising time and space and has been in the business for almost 11 years. She has been involved in the political

process in Mississippi for 30 years, first as a voter, but later working with political figures in the state on their advertising campaigns.

“In the national scheme of it all, Mississippi historically has not played as large a role in the presidential race,” she said. “Obviously we’re only seven electoral votes.”

That is not to say that advertising is not beneficial, though.

“In the political process a voter has to be educated and given a reason why one candidate is more unique,” she said. “The media is not going to give that air time and

space away.”

This year what seemed to make the difference to many stations was the soft money coming in for the Mississippi Supreme Court elections. But, following a long tradition,

none of the Jackson stations received any revenue from presidential campaigns.

Ted Rudolph, general manager at WDBD Fox 40 in Jackson, said the market this year was down in comparison to last, and this year he did not see any money from the

presidential campaigns come into his station.

“Last year we had a lot of statewide races that generated a lot more interest in revenue,” he said. “We as a station were down from last year.”

Mississippi was not considered one of the targeted states for the presidential campaigns, Rudolph said.

As for the soft money that came in from such organizations as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it was no surprise to Rudolph that his station got money to run ads for

judicial candidates.

“We’ve historically gotten issue-oriented political advertising,” he said. “It didn’t seem to be out of the ordinary.”

And when the waters got rough with the courts, WDBD simply followed the court’s orders and discontinued running the Chamber’s spots until the injunctions were lifted.

The station never lost revenue due to the injunctions.

“It was more of an inconvenience than anything,” Rudolph said.

WAPT-TV in Jackson had a much more active year than they had anticipated, particularly because of the amount of soft money coming from the U.S. Chamber of

Commerce, said Jeff Wolfe, national sales manager.

“We didn’t think it would be much,” he said. “The difference was the Supreme Court races were way beyond what anyone thought they would be.”

Like WDBD, WAPT, also in Jackson, did not experience a loss in revenue because of the injunctions filed.

Leigh White, general sales manager at WJTV-TV Channel 12 said this year her station did not pull in as much revenue as last.

“I had a feeling the Supreme Court races would be a surprise just based on four years ago,” she said. “What I didn’t expect was the soft money from the national

Chamber of Commerce.”

Considering everything, less was spent this year on political advertising than last. But that did not hurt the station.

“We didn’t budget a very large amount this year,” White said. “We only went over that budget because of soft money.”

WAPT budgets its political money as an unknown.

“You make educated guesses based on prior years” White said. “Four years ago we didn’t receive any presidential money either.”

According to White, although the city of Jackson did not see any money from presidential campaigns for advertising, Hattiesburg did. WAPT-TV’s sister station, WHLT

in Hattiesburg, got some advertising money from presidential candidate Pat Buchanan’s campaign.

At Jackson station WLBT-TV, the only problems the station ran into with the court-ordered injunctions stemmed from confusion toward the end of the Mississippi

Supreme Court campaigns.

“It was just a lot of on and off,” said Frankie Thomas, general sales manager at WLBT. “It just got to the point where stations didn’t know what to run and what not to


Thomas, who has been in the business more than 20 years, said she had never seen anything like that happen before. And although the station did honor the injunctions,

they still felt they had been “caught in the middle.”

WLBT’s campaign-related revenue was up significantly from four years ago, although it was down from last year’s statewide elections.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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