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Interactive maps reveal media coverage during elections

Interactive and web-based maps detailing media coverage during national elections will be unveiled on Thursday Feb. 9, 2006, by The Carter Center, the University of Calgary, and the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL). Developed using GIS the maps are designed to increase transparency in campaign finance reform and democracy-building efforts by illustrating where media are located, how far they broadcast, who owns them, and what the demographic profile is of the electoral constituencies they reach.

Media play an increasingly important role in transmitting information about elections and candidates. Publicity is usually the most expensive single item in a campaign budget for a national office, giving advantage to well-financed candidates in establishing name recognition and communicating their programs; therefore, rising television advertising prices have jacked up campaign costs. The outcomes of electoral races may be altered by financial disparities, especially where media ownership is concentrated and owners offer price discounts to their preferred candidates. Yet there is comparatively little information about the media available to citizens; these new maps are another step to ensuring an informed electorate.

Experts from The Carter Center — including Dr. Shelley McConnell, senior associate director of the Center’s Americas Program — and the University of Calgary will present the map as part of a day-long seminar event. Leading up to Peru’s national elections, these maps will contribute to strengthening political processes. Peru is one of 12 countries being mapped with the new technology to provide visual context to the lines of influence the media has in shaping the campaign finance environment. The maps and their accompanying links to related reports and web sites answer the question: “Which media reach out to which voters?” and enable citizens to better understand the impact of publicity on the vote, and therefore the influence of the money that bought that publicity.