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Trump may have to share US airtime more

Associated Press Associated Press 28/05/2016 David Bauder

During the height of the US presidential primary season, a sense of Donald Trump overload in the media united a divided electorate.

Now, as things pivot toward a general election campaign almost certain to match Trump against Hillary Clinton, television news producers will be watched to see whether traditional notions of fairness and equal time will take hold in a political season that has been anything but traditional.

The expected Republican nominee so dominated campaign coverage that by late March a Pew Research Center survey found that 75 per cent of Americans said the media had given him too much attention.

"Donald Trump does make news and he does drive ratings," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

"He's invariably interesting, in the same way that watching the Indy 500 is interesting. You're never exactly sure what's going to happen, but there's always the possibility of a crash."

Evening news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC spent more than twice as much time on the Republican primary campaign as on the Democrats this year through the end of April, according to the Tyndall Report, which follows the content of those broadcasts.

Trump tallied 425 minutes of coverage, and Clinton had 117.

During a four-week period in March and April, the conservative watchdog Media Research Center found that CNN spent 730 minutes on the Republican race and 214 on the Democrats. Trump had 331 minutes of coverage and Clinton had 110, the MRC said.

Some CNN employees have expressed concern, through internal channels, about Trump's airtime.

But CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker, who declined an interview request, has vigorously defended CNN's coverage and said neither the network nor Trump should be punished for his accessibility.

Now that the primaries are ending, "the sort of free-for-all season is over," said Frank Sesno, a journalism professor at George Washington University and former CNN Washington bureau chief.

"All news organisations have an obligation to get serious and sober about how they are going to cover this, about the equity with which they cover it," Sesno said.

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