7 TV News Stations Have Aired No Coverage of Drug Price Reform Initiative Prop 61, Despite Airing Nearly $1.7 Million in Anti-61 Advertising

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Santa Monica, CA — Seven California news stations have not aired a single story about Proposition 61 to educate voters on the measure that would cap state prescription drug prices, despite receiving nearly $1.7 million in ad money from the pharmaceutical industry’s record-breaking $109 million No campaign. Other California TV stations have aired an average one to three news reports on Proposition 61 during the last month. However, these few stories aren’t enough to balance the $35.3 million in deceptive advertising the pharmaceutical industry had bought on broadcast TV as of October 27, Consumer Watchdog said today.

The drug companies have spent another $12.6 million advertising on cable, and have reportedly poured millions more into ads during the final days of the election. The Yes on 61 campaign has spent $15 million for its largely grassroots campaign.

A final opportunity for news stations to explain Prop 61 to voters will come on Monday, when Senator Bernie Sanders will appear in Los Angeles and Sacramento at rallies in support of the measure.

The stations that have not run a single story on Proposition 61 received a total $1,678,485 in advertising against Proposition 61. They include:

City/Network           Anti-61 Ad Dollars

San Diego
ABC – KGTV                    $258,000
NBC – KNSD                   $623,800

Palm Springs
Fox – KDFX                       $4,825
ABC – KESQ                   $380,940
CBS – KPSP                   $109,860

Santa Barbara
NBC – KSBY                    $267,100

FOX – KBFX                      $33,960

“The public has a right to hear about both sides of an issue and, while the FCC Fairness doctrine may have disappeared, news stations owe better to their viewers than a slew of No ads without a counterbalancing amount of coverage,” said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker. “To have received nearly $1.7 million in ad dollars from the drug industry, and not air a single balanced news piece examining the truth behind their ads’ claims, does a disservice to these stations’ viewers. We urge them to make up at least some of that lost time by covering Proposition 61 before Tuesday,” said Tucker.

To determine how many news stories each station ran, Consumer Watchdog reviewed news clips using a media tracking service, searched television stations’ websites, and phoned each station’s news department. A few stations in the chart above indicated the intent to cover Prop 61, but have not yet aired stories. The media markets reviewed include: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs and Monterey.

Stations in Los Angeles were paid an average of $2.2 million for coverage, while stations in San Francisco got an average of $693,000 and in Sacramento got an average of a little more than half a million dollars. The No Campaign also spent an additional $2 million on No ads at Hispanic broadcast stations in California, including $1 million in the Los Angeles market. Out of LA’s four major Hispanic stations — Univision 34, Telemundo 52, Azteca 54, and Estrella 62 – only Univision 34 has covered Prop 61.

Prop 61 would cap prescription drug prices sold to state healthcare programs at or below the amount that the US Department of Veterans Affairs pays for its prescription drugs under federal law—saving California taxpayers billions of dollars by requiring the state to negotiate prices. The VA gets its drugs for the lowest price of any federal agency—up to 40 percent below retail. No on 61 ads featuring vets suggest that the drug industry would raise prices to them to offset losses in California. That is impossible under federal law which caps the price of prescription drugs to the VA under negotiated contracts, and pegs increases to the Consumer Price Index.

Yes on Prop. 61 is endorsed by AARP, the California Nurses Association, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and his new organization Our Revolution, Consumer Watchdog, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, civil rights and labor activist Dolores Huerta, the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Urban League, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Campaign for a Healthy California, Progressive Democrats of America, Social Security Works and VoteVets Action Fund.


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Paid for by Consumer Watchdog Campaign – Yes on 61, Major Funding by Yes on Prop 61, Californians for Lower Drug Prices, With Major Funding by AIDS Healthcare Foundation and California Nurses Association PAC

Liza Tucker
Liza Tucker
Liza Tucker is a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog, following everything from oil and gas to the regulation of toxic substances in the state of California. She comes to us from Marketplace, the largest U.S. broadcast show on business and economics heard by ten million listeners each week on 400 radio stations. Liza worked at this public radio show for a decade, first as Commentary Editor and then as Senior Editor for both Washington and Sustainability News.

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