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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: free press

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May 16, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Raw video: Seattle protesters call on FCC to protect open Internet

Over the next four months, the Federal Communications Commission is likely to hear an earful from Americans outraged over the prospect of a “fast lane” connection for websites willing and able to pay top dollar to Internet service providers. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times’ news coverage of Thursday’s contentious meeting in…

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Comments | Topics: free press, net neutrality, open internet

May 14, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Tell us what you think about the FCC’s net-neutrality proposal

A surge of opposition should prompt Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to scrap his plan to create a tiered Internet. Under his ill-advised proposal before federal regulators, websites willing to pay premium prices to Internet service providers would be able to reach customers and run faster than those that don’t. ISPs like Time Warner and Comcast could charge higher rates to companies such as Amazon.com, Google and Microsoft. Start-ups unable to pay higher ISP fees would be hobbled.

The easiest way to learn why net neutrality is such a big deal is to view the video below, courtesy of the watchdog group Free Press. (It’s less than two minutes long.)

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Comments | Topics: federal communications commission, free press, internet

April 2, 2014 at 6:03 AM

5 things to know about local TV news consolidation — and what you can do about it

In Wednesday’s edition of The Seattle Times, the editorial board commended the Federal Communications Commission’s decision this week to crack down on media consolidation by ending the practice of joint sales agreements (JSAs). A majority of commissioners agreed that waivers should be granted only in cases where station leaders can prove that partnerships truly serve the public interest through quality and diverse programming on public airwaves, and not just to to increase profits for private companies.

L to R: Commissioner Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. Commissioners Group Photo, November 2013

Members of the Federal Communications Commission in a November 2013 photo. Left to right: Commissioner Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. (Photo provided by the FCC)

Are you one of the millions of Americans still getting your information from your local television news? Here are five things you should know:

1. Media consolidation is real.

Fewer owners nationwide control what viewers see and hear. Imagine what that means for communities and American democracy, which relies on many perspectives to maintain a self-governing, informed electorate. Look at the interactive graphic featured in a Oct. 29, 2013 Opinion Northwest blog post.

In Seattle, the commercial stations are all owned by out-of-state conglomerates. Last year, Sinclair Broadcast Group bought KOMO-TV and Gannett purchased KING-TV. KIRO-TV is owned by Cox Media Group. KCPQ-TV’s parent company is Tribune. They are staffed by local (and beloved) news producers and reporters, but their financial interests are in the hands of owners who do not have close ties to the community.

That’s not to say the quality of news has gone down the drain, but the loss of local ownership is something to keep in mind next time you notice there’s a dearth of quality, local content and more packages stories from other markets.

2. Broadcasters have used JSAs to skirt federal rules and control more than one station in various markets.

Last October, The Wall Street Journal’s Keach Hagey wrote a comprehensive report about the use of “sidecar” agreements, in which broadcasters such as Sinclair skirt federal limits and operate more than one station in some markets by outsourcing management duties. As noted in Wednesday’s Seattle Times editorial, the FCC should force broadcasters to disclose all shared-service agreements.

3. The consolidation is sweeping the country.

The graphic below, by the media watchdog group Free Press, shows where JSAs and other forms of shared-service agreements are in place around the country. Free Press calls these partnerships “covert consolidation.” (Read more about the ways broadcasters have violated federal rules on Free Press’ blog.)

(Source: Free Press)

(Map: Free Press)

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Comments | Topics: free press, journalism, media consolidation

March 31, 2014 at 6:02 AM

FCC should curb TV media consolidation by closing loophole

Watch what the Federal Communications Commission does on Monday. For the first time in years, the panel should move to slow down media consolidation by closing a loophole that has allowed a handful of the nation’s largest broadcasters to skirt laws limiting station ownership.

No surprise, the broadcast industry is vehemently opposed to ending the practice of Joint Sales Agreements, but this sort of business tactic (covered in-depth by The Wall Street Journal) has diminished local ownership and allowed a small number of big players to control the flow of information over huge swaths of the country.

Local television news is at risk of becoming more about profits for out-of-town corporate bosses than about informing communities with quality news. Why should viewers care about any of this? The fewer owners there are in broadcast news, the fewer perspectives will be featured on the public airwaves. Some argue it makes business sense for the industry to combine operations to be more efficient. But at what cost? With consolidation, women and minority ownership has dropped.

The Seattle Times weighed in on the JSA issue in a March 3 editorial, and encouraged the FCC to follow the advice of the U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-trust attorneys:

Federal attorneys advised the FCC to better scrutinize every deal that comes before its five-member panel. The regulators should force companies to report when they operate multiple stations jointly in the same market, as they already do for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Failure to account for the effects of such arrangements can create opportunities to circumvent FCC ownership limits and the goals those limits are intended to advance,” Justice Department officials wrote.

Consolidation shrinks newsrooms and deprives viewers of in-depth journalism that speaks truth to power. The FCC has failed miserably to protect the integrity of the public’s airwaves through promoting competition, local ownership and diverse viewpoints.

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Comments | Topics: fcc, free press, joint sales agreements

October 29, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Interactive: Big media conglomerates taking over local TV

Some things you have to see to believe, right? Well, take a look at the interactive graphic below by Free Press, a media watchdog group that closely monitors the Federal Communications Commission. It shows how four media conglomerates have quickly amassed news stations nationwide. It is disturbing stuff. The FCC clearly continues to ignore its own…

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Comments | Topics: fcc, free press, media consolidation