/// Politically Connected

October 22, 2012  |  Media Week

Roanoke, Va., makes up half of the 68th-largest DMA in the country, and while it’s just a four-hour drive from Washington, D.C., it may as well be a world away. A local joke has it that each mile between Roanoke and the nation’s capital equates to one more year going back in time. But this year, Roanoke is most definitely inside the Beltway. Roanoke is the westernmost of Virginia’s major cities, far away from the wasteland of decaying strip malls surrounding D.C. like a moat. Heading south from Roanoke toward North Carolina, several places have fallen on hard times—among them, Henry County (with an unemployment rate of 11.4 percent and rising), Halifax County (11.5 percent and rising) and the city of Danville (13.1 percent and rising). This is the South. The continental breakfast buffet at an airport hotel includes a Crock-Pot full of grits. When people around here ask how you’re doing, they really mean it. Virginia is as down-home as it gets. It’s also home to the all-powerful swing voter in this election year. Virginia has quietly liberalized. It wasn’t even considered a swing state in 2008, when the Roanoke-Lynchburg market’s four major TV stations reportedly pulled in a combined $5.6 million during that record-breaking season for political ad spending. Some of that revenue came by way of direct spending by candidates, for which stations are required to charge the lowest unit rate. Others came in the form of “issue” ads purchased by ostensibly independent groups. For those commercials, the stations could charge what the market would bear. What a difference four years has made

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