ProPublica asks for help posting TV political ad spending reports online

ProPublica | PEJ’s State of the Media
ProPublica has waded into the debate between the FCC and local TV stations about whether they should be required to put their political ad spending reports online. “We tend to like the idea of public data being online,” writes ProPublica Social Media Editor Daniel Victor. “Since TV stations won’t put it online themselves, we decided to do it ourselves — and we want your help.” He enlisted students at Medill to visit five stations in the Chicago area and copy the reports, which ProPublica uploaded to its site.

As of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, less than a day after asking for help to do this at more stations, 48 people in 35 television markets had volunteered. (There are about 210 markets in the country.) Victor told me it’s too early to say if ProPublica will use the reports to create a tool tracking political ad spending across the country. Read more

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FCC study: Cross-ownership may increase some local news

Broadcasting & Cable | FCC
New studies commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission suggest media consolidation has not harmed local news; in some cases, cross-ownership may help. The studies are part of the FCC’s mandate to review media ownership rules. There will be a total of 10 studies, seven of which have now been released. One of the newest studies finds:

“Individual television stations that are cross-owned with newspapers air more local news than comparable stations in the market. However, the television markets that contain these cross-ownership relationships do not air any more (or perhaps air even less) local news programming than comparable markets (presumably due to a reduction in news from the non-cross-owned stations).”

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FCC commissioner: Report lacks bold recommendations needed to support journalism

Federal Communications Commission
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps criticizes the agency’s “The Information Needs of Communities” report released Thursday, saying it isn’t the “bold response” needed to address the lack of accountability reporting and diversity in local media. “Instead of calling for stepped-up Commission action, it tinkers around the edges,” he writes. His thoughts on the report’s recommendations after the jump. Read more

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FCC media report shows how interest in government subsidies for local journalism fizzled

There is a lot to like in the Federal Communication Commission’s exhaustive, 478-page study of shortfalls and potential solutions in media.

I’m particularly glad Steve Waldman, who oversaw the report, and his collaborators rejected an assortment of false dichotomies. Old vs. new media, professional or citizen reporters, commercial or nonprofit? “Obviously we need both,” the report says.

In a similar spirit, Waldman concludes that the proliferation of digital news outlets “masks a shortage of reporting …This illusion of bounty risks making us passive.”

Good enough. But when Waldman and company get to what the FCC or Congress can do about deteriorating local accountability reporting, they pretty much punt. Better broadband access, favorable tax treatment of news nonprofits, better digital disclosure of government data and regulatory filings — most of it is familiar stuff.

There are a couple of provocative ideas, such as redirecting to local media the massive, $1-billion-a-year federal ad spend for such things as legal notices and military recruiting. Read more

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FCC report: Local TV ‘more important than ever,’ but thin on accountability reporting

After a year of study, a Federal Communications Commission special report, “The Information Needs of Communities,” says there is a lot of journalism out there, just not much “accountability reporting” of local and state government. Rather than leveling criticism on media companies for giving up their watchdog roles, the report offers observations without judgment.

The report notes the important role of television news but also describes how cutbacks have resulted in newsrooms without deep, beat-oriented expertise. It also says that news stations need to do a better job disclosing paid programming and how they serve the public interest.

The study, based on interviews with 600 journalists, scholars and industry leaders, found that newsrooms are scaling back their coverage of important institutions such as local and state government.

It says there should be state versions of C-SPAN (called STATE-SPAN) to provide coverage of local government. Twenty-three states have such programming now, but in only four cases do cable operators fund the channels (as with C-SPAN); in the others the state funds coverage of itself. Read more


Broadcasters prepare to battle mobile phone companies for airwaves

The New York Times
To accommodate growing mobile voice and data traffic, the FCC wants to take spectrum from “inefficient” users (meaning broadcasters) and auction it off. “Broadcasters have long been under siege, their audiences slipping away to cable television, their advertisers defecting to the Internet. Although giving up spectrum would go unnoticed by most viewers, the fight to hold onto a chunk of the airwaves could be the industry’s biggest battle in years.” Read more


Verizon-Google proposal raises net neutrality alarms

USA Today
Net neutrality advocates from Facebook to MoveOn.org argued Tuesday that a plan to allow preferred access to mobile Internet data would “kill Internet freedom” by allowing corporations to buy faster or more reliable access to deliver their content on mobile devices.

Byron Acohido writes that a proposal from Verizon and Google calls for “a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices” in the transmission of data over the Internet. However, the companies suggested that mobile devices should be excluded from those prohibitions and called for the Federal Communications Commission to be barred from regulating the Internet.

The FCC has been a fervent supporter of net neutrality on both desktop and wireless platforms and earlier this year called for a reallocation of wireless broadcast frequencies to support greater access to mobile data services.

Usage of Internet-connected mobile devices is predicted to surpass fixed desktop connections within five years. So a policy of preferred access for mobile devices is aimed directly at that expected majority of online consumers. Read more


How the FCC Boosted the Internet at Broadcasting’s Expense

In a little-covered speech a couple of weeks ago, Reed Hundt, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told an audience that the FCC delayed the transition to HDTV, stole potential income from phone companies and created policies to favor broadband over broadcasters.

Hundt said it was an attempt to make the Internet the “common medium” of the United States, just as the government had done for broadcast years earlier.

It is a fairly amazing video, and it’s one of those things that all of us who work in the communications world should take some time to try to understand. I have made it easy for you by time-coding some key areas below. For anybody who believes the government’s policies should not favor one medium over another, you will find this speech enlightening and disturbing.

You can watch the video here.

The key sound bites start at 12:57.

At 16:46, he admits that the FCC delayed HDTV. Read more


Consumers, Local Stations Have a Stake in Cable Retransmission Dispute

The New Year’s Eve game of “chicken” between the Fox television network and Bright House cable was a foreshadowing of a battle that will play out again and again around the country, and it could not be more important to broadcasters.

The Associated Press reported:

“The Fox television network and Time Warner Cable reached a programming deal in principle on Friday, after leaving millions of people in the lurch about whether they’d be able to see an anticipated college football bowl game and other shows on cable TV.

“Fox had threatened to force Time Warner Cable and another cable TV provider, Bright House Networks, to drop the Fox broadcast signal from 14 of its TV stations and half a dozen of its cable channels as a contract expired at midnight Thursday.

“But signals were extended into Friday as talks continued, allowing more than 6 million cable subscribers in New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., and other markets to tune into the Sugar Bowl and other programming.”

What is this about? Read more


Congress’ CALM Act Aims to Quiet TV Commercials

If commercials seem louder than the TV programs that surround them, it may not be your imagination. The FCC, Congress and a nonprofit group made up of broadcasters and cable operators are all working on ways to even out the highs and lows of program sound and commercial volume.

Within the next month, a group called The Advanced Television Systems Committee may reach an agreement on technical standards for what broadcasters call the “audio loudness differential.”

Congress, meanwhile is considering the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, known as CALM. The act states that:

    (1) “advertisements accompanying such video programming shall not be excessively noisy or strident;”CommentsClose CommentsPermalink

    (2) “such advertisements shall not be presented at modulation levels substantially higher than the program material that such advertisements accompany;”CommentsClose CommentsPermalink

    (3) “the average maximum loudness of such advertisements shall not be substantially higher than the average maximum loudness of the program material that such advertisements accompany.”CommentsClose CommentsPermalink

DailyFinance.com pointed out that the FCC has regulatory interest in this matter

If you don’t want to wait for Congress or others to fix the problem, you can try a new gadget called TruVolume, which anticipates when a loud commercial is about to air and tones it down. Read more


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