NPR Investigates Newspaper-TV Duopolies

  • NPR Investigates Newspaper-TV Duopolies
    A report aired on today’s Morning Edition examining the cross ownership of different media outlets in a given market, since the FCC is looking into revising or killing rules that limit such cross ownership. Click here to listen to the segment in Real Audio.

    The report was reasonable if not particularly incisive. It focused a couple of markets with heavy cross-ownership, such as the Tribune company in Chicago which owns a local cable TV news station, a news paper and a radio station, and looked at what economic advantages owners get from such combinations. Then it also gave time to critics, such as one guy in Milwaukee who noted that the local daily also owns TV and radio, which allowed the owner to lobby heavily and successfully for a new baseball stadium.

    One thing that always gets left out of these discussions in the mainstream press is the ability or, really, the necessity for the media to be a check on itself. That is, if a local TV station doesn’t seem to be programming or acting in the public interest, isn’t that something you’d expect the local newspaper to look into? How likely is that to happen if they have the same owner? And if these different outlets share a lot of their news staff, then you’re really just getting pummelled from all sides by the same perspective — a definite cut in diversity (such as it is in the contemporary media environment).

    The NPR piece notes that FCC Chair Michael Powell thinks that these cross-ownership limits are particularly inappropriate for the nation’s largest media markets, such as New York City, where there are multiple newspapers and at least a dozen broadcast TV stations. In such an environment having one duopoly might not make a big difference, but what if all media outlets are part of a cross-ownership deal of some kind? What if every TV station owner also had a newspaper, or radio station, or several? Then your overall diversity of ownership and voices gets quickly fractioned. What results is a small cartel of large media owners in a market who each have little incentive to check up on each other, lest one make itself a target and sour the waters for everyone. And this is on top of the effect on small, independnet operators who will be squeezed out of the market due to the cross-owned outlets being able to offer better ad rates across several media properties, forcing those small operators to sell or fold.

    Tell me again how the free market is supposed to be friendly to the independent businessperson? Do we really want our local media to be Wal-Marted?

    Previous posts on cross-ownership:

  • FCC Creates Media Ownership Working Group
  • Lighting-fast Deregulation and Consolidation: FCC Approves Fox/News Purchase of Additional NYC TV Station
  • Damn It’s Gettin’ Thick: Disney Prez Says Local Ownership not Necessary for Good Local TV News
  • Congress and Industry Butt Heads over Ownership Limits

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