For example, in reviewing files at WBPF in Palm Beach Gardens, our Florida correspondent Brian Crowley found the following:

Poring over the [six-inch-thick] binder, the most notable thing is that a good four of those six inches is occupied by Romney’s campaign, which spent nearly $85,000 on this station in the four weeks leading up to the January 31 Florida primary. The campaign’s 110 spots included time on ABC’s food and style program, The Chew.
From a perusal of the files at KTUD in Las Vegas, for another example, Jay Jones, our Nevada correspondent, determined that 2011 was a slow year on the station—the largest buy was from the US Chamber of Commerce, for $1742.50. And among the bits of information Andria Krewson, our North Carolina correspondent, found in WBTV’s files in Charlotte: for January and early February, before the South Carolina GOP primary, Obama 4 America spent more on ad buys ($67,770) than did the Mitt Romney campaign ($31,855).
Also at WBTV, Krewson discovered that Robert Pittenger, running for US House District 9, was the only local candidate as of March 9 with his own file (showing he had spent $42,805 for ads scheduled to run through March 11). “Beware the data,” Krewson added. “His name is spelled ‘Pettenger’ in one file reference.”

Which leads us to our next takeaway:

There’s real variability from station to station in both the presentation and comprehensiveness of files. FCC requirements are the same across the nation, but the files themselves aren’t. Our correspondents reported that some appeared incomplete, some were disorganized, and some contained a surprising bounty of information.

On February 22, our Nevada correspondent, Jay Jones, visited NBC affiliate KSNV (owned by Intermountain West media mogul Jim Rogers) in Las Vegas. In the station’s 2012 political files, Jones found notes—for each flight of ads purchased—indicating how much the advertiser spent at KSNV as well as the total spend for the entire market, including a breakdown by each station. KSNV’s breakdown noted that at KTUD, a smaller station owned by Greenspun Media Group, $0 was spent—something Jones already knew from a trip earlier that day to KTUD, which turned up no 2012 political ad file at all.

From KSNV’s records on market-wide ad spending, Jones was able to see, for example, that in the run-up to Nevada’s February 4 caucuses, Restore Our Future (the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC) spent $24,795 at KSNV out of market total of $88,553. Mitt Romney for President bought two ad flights at KSNV, for airing between January 22 and February 4, totaling $39,750, while market-wide these two flights cost the Romney campaign $220,833.

The Editors