Silly, inaccurate and distorted. That's the response from general managers of Buffalo's top three television network affiliates to a watchdog group's claim that broadcast stations have earned a great deal of advertising money while cutting down on "substantive" coverage and declining to give political candidates free time to discuss issues.
The watchdog group, the Alliance for Better Campaigns, recently listed the stations that have made the most money and provided the least access to candidates on a Web site -- http://greedytv.
The group, which has the support of Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., and retired CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, is trying to pressure stations to give candidates five minutes in prime time to discuss issues during the final month of the campaign.
According to the group, Channel 7 is No. 47 on the Web site list, earning $994,894 from political advertising from Jan. 1 through July 31. Channel 4 was No. 54 with $893,424 and Channel 2 was No. 136 with $397,955.
"I think they need to do their homework," said Channel 7 General Manager Bill Ransom. He said Granite Broadcasting, the owner of Channel 7, announced in July that it was going to offer free time to congressional, Senate and presidential candidates for the final six weeks of the campaign. Ransom said the free campaign will start Monday and allow two minutes per candidate to address issues.
"Granite stepped up to do it," Ransom added. "It is important our viewers have the opportunity to listen to the candidates about issues that are pertinent to the region."
He said the station has received commitments from all the challengers in congressional races, is in discussion with representatives of Senate candidates Rick Lazio and Hillary Rodham Clinton, but has heard nothing yet from the presidential candidates.
"It is a silly Web site," said Channel 4 General Manager Lou Verruto referring to GreedyTV. "By law, we have to take political advertising. It is not as though we are seeking it. We have no control over how much is spent by politicians.
"As far as free time, we give them an enormous amount by the way we cover the news. If Rick Lazio or Hillary Clinton is in town, they are able, through our news, to present anything they want to and we cover it in a very balanced way. The idea of offering someone free time when they already are given it is a little crazy, if you ask me."
Added Channel 2 General Manager Darryll Green: "I think we do a good job of covering the issues. We're very committed to getting out the information. We just pre-empted a whole hour of access time for the (Lazio-Clinton) debate."