Media and politics will always be wed – reporters have no choice but to cover the actions and decisions of those seeking government office and political hopefuls need radio and television exposure to win elections.
Of all the media opportunities to choose from, the most beneficial appears to be the radio and television talk show format. Candidates see it as a powerful tool for political gain. Who can forget the Presidential race of 1992 when Democratic nominee Bill Clinton donned sunglasses and a saxophone and appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show? Millions tuned in; most of the viewers were young and urban. The performance resonated with them and solidified Clinton’s popularity with minority and young voters. Clinton knew his audience and he was prepared.
As elections begin to heat up in the next couple of years, campaign directors will begin to shop their candidates around. They will be looking for the “right” talk show that will give their political hopeful a chance to show his or her personality, and political savvy. They will cover the spectrum, booking appearances with hosts that toss softball questions to make the candidate look relaxed and human; and, with hosts that play hardball, but can deliver support at the ballot box. On the national level, we’ve all seen high-profile candidates take a seat or microphone next to Jon Stewart, then Ed Schultz, and also Sean Hannity to get their message out to every possible ear, and sway every undecided vote to their side.
On the local level, candidates take their races directly to talk shows as well. Recently in Bergen County, New Jersey two candidates vying for the office of County Executive stopped by the studio of Record Talk Radio for back-to-back interviews about the big issues in that local race; listeners were encouraged to send in their questions and participate in the discussions. The appearance provided the ideal format to cover local issues and reach the broadest audience in one sitting.
The power of talk radio to direct political agendas is also evidenced by some candidates inviting talk show hosts to appear with them out on the campaign trail. In 2013 Virginia politics, gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli fired up a crowd by inviting nationally syndicated talk show host Mark Levin to join him as he stumped for votes. Cuccinelli did not win the election, but the appearance did energize his target audience: conservatives and tea party members.
Another strong outlet for political candidates is P.O.T.U.S. (Politics of the United States), a SiriusXM channel featuring political talk radio. It has received high marks for several years for its fair and balanced political reporting, giving listeners a taste of the major political events of the day and letting them make up their own minds on the issues.
The talk show setting, whether on TV or radio, is perfect profile-raising exposure for a political candidate. Last year, Arbitron, a consumer research company recently acquired by Nielsen Audio, specializing in data on radio broadcasting audiences released a report on “How America Listens to Radio,” and found:
- The News/Talk/Information format is one of the most listened to in the U.S. – second only to Country
- 43.5% of the listeners are college graduates
- 62.8% earn more than $50,000-a-year
- 90% go to the polls and vote
So, prepare yourself to be the target of every major political campaign, local and national, in the next two years.