How much more annoying is this election season compared with 2008? If you're going by television ad spending in Richmond, things are getting about 350 percent worse.
Expenditures on all those maddeningly repetitive political commercials could total $22.5 million across the Richmond market by Nov. 6. That's up from $5 million spent here four years ago, says James Taguchi, national sales manager at WTVR-TV 6, citing his estimates and local audits.
The numbers rise daily, but as of last week the CBS affiliate alone had sold 3,100 spots in September and October for the presidential race, according to documents the station must disclose. That's $1.6 million worth of airtime bought by the two campaigns and six outside groups that aim to influence the race.
In the latter category is the Republican political action committee co-founded by Karl Rove, American Crossroads, which spent $181,000 with WTVR since September. The group bought 345 ads on programs as varied as "60 Minutes" ($3,500 for a 30-second ad) and "The Price is Right" ($400 for 30 seconds).
Spending by Republican groups such as Rove's accounts for 75 percent of the nearly $40 million spent so far by outside groups in Virginia's four largest broadcast markets, according to data collected by the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks state campaign finance reports.
As for the individual campaigns, a look at two local stations last week shows that Obama has booked $510,000 worth of ads on WTVR and $600,000 worth on NBC-affiliate WWBT-TV 12 since September. Romney has bought $388,000 and $490,000 on the two stations respectively.
Regardless of who's buying the ads, the election has been a windfall for broadcasters across the state. David Poole, executive director of Virginia Public Access Project, says two factors are fueling the spending spree. First, never before have corporations been allowed to pour unlimited amounts of money into political action committees, change brought on by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010.
Second, for the first time in recent history Virginia is considered winnable by both parties.