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With North Carolina again a closely contested electoral battleground, political advertising funds are flooding into and around the state. And for the first time, the Federal Communications Commission is providing ready access to data about political ad buys on locally based television stations like Asheville’s ABC affiliate, WLOS.

Under a new rule that went into effect Aug. 2, the major networks in the country’s top 50 media markets must upload their “public inspection file,” a set of records regarding station operations normally kept on paper at each station, to an online FCC database. These materials include the stations’ so-called “political files,” which document campaign-related ad sales.

Asheville is part of a market that ranks 37th among the nation’s top 50, so WLOS, the only station in Western North Carolina that fits the criteria, is among those required to share the files online.

A Carolina Public Press analysis of the station’s filings for ad space purchased thus far, for hundreds of 30-second spots running between Aug. 2 and the Nov. 6 election, shows more than $3 million in revenues for WLOS.

The graphic below lists the amounts spent so far by the buyers, which range from candidate committees to traditional political action committees to super–PACS. While most of the money is in support of the presidential race, a good portion is also going to state and local contests.

Eleven campaigns and groups supporting candidates have together spent $3,005,355 on ads scheduled to air on WLOS between Aug. 2 and the election. In this chart, campaigns and groups supporting Democrats are colored blue, while those supporting Republicans are red. Click to view full-size image. Jon Elliston/Carolina Public Press

The spending on WLOS skews to the right, with ads supporting Republican candidates funded at twice the level of ads supporting Democrats.

That breakdown is similar to spending levels throughout North Carolina, according to a recent analysis by NBC News. The network found that North Carolina has received the fourth-most presidential ad spending of any state, with $56.5 million spent here so far. Of that total, 61 percent went to ads supporting Republican challenger Mitt Romney, with the rest going to ads supporting President Barack Obama’s re-election.

Reflecting statewide and national trends, ad spending on WLOS favors Republican candidates over Democratic ones by a substantial margin. Jon Elliston/Carolina Public Press

This is the first presidential election since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing so-called “super-PACs” to gather and spend nearly limitless funds on political advocacy, leading to what is expected to be record-level campaign spending in North Carolina and around the nation.

Visit the FCC site here to explore the latest data on campaign spending at WLOS.


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About the Author

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the Investigations and Open Government Editor at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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