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)."

A second study goes further, questioning whether the 2007 rule loosening newspaper and broadcast cross-ownership is necessary at all, given -- among other things -- “the recent declines in newspaper revenues and news production expenditures, and the potential economies of scope available to joint owners of news outlets in multiple media.”

The purpose of the cross-ownership limits are to protect diversity of ownership and diversity of perspectives in local news. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps spoke on behalf of more restrictive limits during remarks last week to the National Newspaper Association. Copps also expressed concern about the health of the media landscape.

"Right now approximately 90% of the news and information journalism that Americans rely on, including the news they read online, originates from traditional journalism--newspapers and broadcasting. There may be lots of channels and web avenues out there to distribute what is produced, but what is produced is far fewer original stories. The analogy of a bucket brigade is a good one: more and more buckets (the millions of websites) but less and less water (original reporting) to go around. Meanwhile the fires rage. So everywhere around us are telling signs that the news and information journalism we relied on for so long is dwindling and the Internet cannot fulfill its democratic potential without sustainable journalism."

The recent scandal over practices at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., have renewed discussion over media consolidation and the danger of concentrating too much power in the hands of too few companies. Analysts say the FCC is unlikely to strip Murdoch of any broadcast licenses and may loosen cross-ownership rules.


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