FCC votes to require broadcasters in top 50 markets to post political ad records online

NPR | ProPublica

Update: The Wrap reports that the FCC has voted to require the four largest broadcasters in the top 50 markets to post records online; everyone else is exempt for two years. This means that 160 markets, everything smaller than Louisville, Ky, are excluded, as the Sunlight Foundation illustrates. ProPublica’s Justin Elliott notes that stations will be allowed to provide the reports in any file format, so they won’t be searchable.

The sticking point, as noted below: disclosure of ad rates. Read more

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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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Read more

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