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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: Broadcasting
April 11, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Consolidation eats another local touchstone

The acquisition of Fisher Broadcasting by Sinclair Broadcast Group is bad news for Seattle and the Northwest. Seattle will lose a small but important corporate headquarters. Sinclair, which is based in suburban Baltimore, will no doubt get rid of many Fisher corporate jobs that are made “redundant” by the merger. The Northwest will lose a distinct local voice.

Sinclair says it “owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 112 television stations in 61 markets” in some 26 states. With the Fisher acquisition, it will gain KOMO TV and 19 other television stations, along with KOMO Newsradio, KPLZ STAR 101.5, and KVI 570. (The reader should know that I have appeared on KOMO radio from time to time as an unpaid pundit on economic issues, as I do on several other local stations).

Broadcasting, which uses the public airways, has become one of the most consolidated industries in our era of monopolies, duopolies and cartels. All across the country, formerly proud local stations have been absorbed by the Borg of a few big players.  The Federal Communications Commission has done nothing to stop the trend, so don’t expect it to stop the sale of Fisher. But the result is not just lost jobs, but the loss in communities of some of their most important, and influential, touchstones. There’s less competition and innovation, fewer choices and distinctive local stations.

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