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May 25, 2003
Politics in
an Uncertain World
How Politicians Reduce Information Costs
By Howard Hobbs Ph.D., Editor & Publisher

   FRESNO -- Advertising is the life blood of newspapers and politicians. Newspaper, radio spots and print ads cost a lot of money. Rational citizens seeking public office these days, are under great pressure to increase the quality of political rhetoric and to cut down the quantity of scarce money resources for communicating needed political information to voters.
    One model, which appears to form the base of most of local Fresno political campaign practice, is the strategic use of Fresno's free information stream. Fresno's free information stream systematically provides local voters with more politically useful information than it provides others.
    Certain specialists in the division of labor act automatically to reduce data costs drastically and to focus citizens' attention on the areas most relevant to their political decision?making. Even when the returns from making correct decisions are infinite, rational men sometimes delegate part or all of their political decision?making to others. However, without this device, voters of in Fresno might be less well informed about politics.
    In any city, however, voters will never be equally well?informed politically, no matter how equal they are in all other respects. The concept of democracy based on an electorate of equally well informed citizens presupposes that all men are equally well informed or equally misinformed.
    In spite of its inadequacies, from advertising come virtually all the revenues needed to operate Mr. Autry's political campaign and pay the costs of printing and distributing newspapers. The newspaper publisher's real customer is not the Fresno news reader, but the advertiser who wishes to bring his political ideological wares to the attention of the greater Fresno voting electorate.
    The only commodity the newspaper publisher has to sell is space in the daily news edition. Politicians with a non-existent or limited advertising budget easily obtain the free use of the facilities of a local or regional newspaper for unlimited periods of time. The local politician uses the free space provided by the news media to bring his partisan message to the attention of the newspaper's readership.
    Often as election day approaches, local politicians buy sufficient space to present an entire campaign statement with endorsements buy local notables. Usually, he buys only enough pace in the newspaper and on local air time on radio time for last minute announcements 60 seconds or less in length.
A radio station's time, however, is valueless to candidates unless the station has listeners. So the station presents programs to attract a targeted audience. For practical purposes it might be said that the broadcaster is engaged in two separate enterprises: (1) providing a free program service for the benefit of the nonpaying public, and (2) selling time in his schedule to political candidates and other advertisers to pay for this free service.
    Some of the political advertisers who buy time on local stations are small, with a political base of operations limited to a single community, say the City of Fresno on the basis of the size of the Fresno City area to be reached and the manner in which advertising space and time are donated or purchased. The type of newspaper advertising we are seeing locally in the Fresno area is local newspaper, television and radio spots.
     Spot announcements come in a variety of shapes and sizes. On radio, those for local advertisers are usually live announcement read by a station announcer. National spot advertisers usually provide their spot announcements to stations on audio tape.
     On television stations, spots for local advertisers may be presented live with the announcer on camera or with the announcer unseen and with slides or pictures on the screen, but most commonly local talent on videotape for easy replay records them during the run of the spot.
     Some of the more important local advertisers have the commercial messages produced on film or tape by advertising agencies in larger cities. Few television markets, of course, lack one or more advertisers who feel they can do as good a selling job as local talent and insist on appearing in their own commercials, sometimes doing the entire selling job.

Letter to Editor

1876-2003 by The Fresno Republican Newspaper.
All rights reserved.

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1877-2004 by The Fresno Republican Newspaper.
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