Emily Schultheis wrote in Politico Imagine this: In Germany, one TV ad per candidate. "And instead of myriad ads on different topics featuring different people, each party in Germany typically releases just one main minute-and-a-half ad for the entire election."
Part of the reason for the stark difference in TV advertising is the way German system works: each party is allotted a certain amount of airtime on the two public TV networks, ZDF and ARD, based on their vote share in the last election and the number of members in their party.
For the major parties, the CDU and the SPD, that’s eight times on each channel — over the entire course of the campaign. Ads for the smaller parties — the Greens, the Free Democratic Party and the Left Party — will run four times each on ARD and ZDF.
Parties can buy additional spots on private television channels, though their limited campaign budgets keep them from spending anywhere close to the level of U.S. candidates. President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney ran billion-dollar campaigns last year; in Germany, by contrast, each of the major parties expects to spend about $26 to 33 million for the entire campaign.
I wonder what would happen if we banned TV ads in elections? Candidates could still get their message out via newspapers and the Internet. They'd save millions and in presidential elections billions of dollars. Politicians would have to fundraise less (which is about a third of their time now) and wealthy donors (individuals and corporations) would have less influence over them (and might save money). Networks would make more money because they have to offer some airtime at a reduced rate for elections. I'm really not seeing a downside.