A USC study of local television news released Thursday Tuesday found that half-hour newscasts only covered local government issues for an average of 22 seconds, with nearly half of the shows' time left over after ads, sports, weather and teasers were accounted for being devoted to news from outside the market.

The Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism analyzed 500 hours of news recorded over 14 days in August in September, with KABC, KCAL, KCBS, KCOP, KNBC, KTLA, KTTV and the Spanish-language KMEX included.

“All the L.A. TV stations tell the FCC that they're serving the local public interest,” stated Martin Kaplan, USC Annenberg professor and Lear Center director. “These numbers decode what they actually mean by that … Local television is a profitable business, despite the recession, and newscasts are a big reason why. If stations spend only 22 seconds covering local government, they must really believe it's ratings poison.”

After sports and weather (3 minutes, 36 seconds), the stations spent the most time on crime (2 minutes, 50 seconds), and “soft news,” including features, pet tricks and odd stories (2 minutes, 26 seconds), the study found. Coverage of business and the economy racked up an average time of only 29 seconds per half hour.

While the Los Angeles Times gave 10 percent of its average front page to local government stories, newscasts devoted about 2.5 percent of their lead stories to such issues.

KCAL9 had the most local government coverage; KCOP had the most crime coverage.

Read the entire study (PDF).

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