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

Topic: media consolidation

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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

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

June 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Maria Cantwell right to put FCC chair nominee in hot seat over media consolidation

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., continues to demonstrate strong leadership on the issue of curbing media consolidation.

As the Federal Communications Commission undergoes an important review of media ownership guidelines, Cantwell and her colleagues on the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee are getting to know Thomas Wheeler, President Barack Obama’s nominee to become the next chair of the FCC.

In his first initial meeting before the panel last week, Cantwell told Wheeler the newspaper industry’s efforts to purchase more broadcasting stations should be scrutinized, especially after Gannett’s announcement it plans to purchase broadcasting giant Belo’s 23 television stations — including KING 5 in Seattle. Five of those broadcasters are in other cities where Gannett already owns a newspaper. Current rules prohibit media companies from owning multiple properties in the same market.

“And while the purchase is subject to the approval of both the FCC and DOJ, I think Gannett is trying to basically use these ownership rules, use the whole shared service agreement, as a way to get around those rules. So I’m very concerned about that whole issue,” she said.

Wheeler responded, “Senator, I understand the seriousness of this issue. And I have long been an advocate of diversity of voices. On the specific issue that you just raised, I also note that the chairman has asked the [Government Accountability Office] to opine on this issue. And I think that’s appropriate and called for. And I look forward to their opining, their opinion. But I think you said the key thing: that when the commission looks at these issues – competition, localism and diversity – are the issues that should be the touchstones. Not business plans.”

Watch the full June 18 Q&A between the senator and Wheeler in the video below, courtesy of Cantwell’s YouTube channel:

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Comments | Topics: fcc, maria cantwell, media consolidation