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Prof. Danilo Yanich plays the guitar to entertain guests at the 2019 Biden School alumni event.
at the alumni event in October 2019, for graduates of the Joseph R.
Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration at the University
of Delaware, mingled and reconnected while a musician played covers of
familiar pop rock songs, gypsy jazz and bossa nova. A newcomer to the
Biden School might not have guessed, but Danilo Yanich, the entertainer
that evening, has vast expertise that goes far beyond the music.
Yanich, a media policy author and scholar, has spent the last several
years considering the medias role in the outcomes of the 2016
election. His new book, Buying Reality: Political Ads, Money, and Local Television News is now available from Fordham Press.
One of the biggest political stories of 2016 was how Hillary
Clinton, the candidate who bought three-quarters of the political ads
that ran, lost to Trump, the candidate whose every provocative tweet set
the agenda for the daily news coverage, Yanich said. We all see more
targeted, and microtargeted, digital advertising, which might make it
seem like TV ads are inconsequential. But really, campaign spending on
TV ads shows that these ads have an outsized influence on voter
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Danilo Yanich is a professor of urban affairs and public policy.
TV spending has gone up dramatically since 2006 in 2016 alone, $4.4
billion was spent on TV political ads for both presidential and
down-ballot candidates. Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,
spending for the 2020 race overwhelmed previous campaigns by unheard-of
amounts. Even with the pandemic, TV spending will still be dominant in
2020, particularly as the retail politics of campaign rallies take a
Down-ballot candidates compete in a media environment where national
political news gets the overwhelming attention by comparison, local
and state news is largely absent. There was a stark imbalance in 2016
almost 90% of local political stories focused on the presidential race,
while two-thirds of the money and ads addressed down-ballot campaigns
where candidates lack the celebrity of presidential contenders. Without
coverage of local issues and races, ad buys on local TV newscasts are
the best chance most candidates have to get their messages in front of a
broadcast audience that is more fragmented than ever.
On local TV news, political ads create the reality of local races a
reality that is not meant to inform voters, but to persuade them,
Yanich said. Voters are left to their own devices to fill in the space
between what the ads say the bought reality and what political
stories used to cover. And, even as the COVID-19 pandemic changes
election strategies, the 2020 campaign will be much the same because the
perfect storm of factors insecure majorities, campaign finance laws
and a media system that benefits from the arrangement continue to
dominate politics in the U.S.
Danilo Yanich is a professor of urban affairs and public policy at the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware. He is an associate director of the
school and directs the masters program in urban affairs and public
policy. He is a two-time Presidential Fellow of the Salzburg Seminar;
his research focuses on the relationship among the media, citizenship
and public policy.
Article by Crystal Nielsen; photo by Maria Errico
Published May 19, 2020