Broadcast rules used to prevent local broadcasters from growing, but a changing competition for ad dollars that sees TV compete with online ad forms for ad dollars has forced a change. Despite the fact that 37% of US adults get their news from local – as opposed to cable or network TV – it is vulnerable to new pressures.
“Scale matters when we are competing against massive pay TV conglomerates, Facebook, Apple and Netflix”, said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president, communications, at the National Association of Broadcasters.
“If you want a healthy broadcast business that keeps the Super Bowl on free TV, that encourages local investigative journalism and allows stations to go 24-7 live with California wildfire coverage, broadcasters can’t be the only media barred from getting bigger.”
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission introduced new broadcast ownership rules designed, in part, to “better reflect competitive conditions in local markets”.
The FCC has managed to do this by eliminating the Eight-Voices Test, which requires at least eight independently owned television stations to remain in a market before any entity may own two television stations in that market. However, it has eliminated rules without creating new ones, meaning that there is a significant complication.
The news comes as one of the most hotly contested mergers, that of Tribune Media and Sinclair Broadcasting, has ended in a legal tussle as Tribune filed a lawsuit for breach of contract.
This trend is not only reserved for TV broadcasting. Newsrooms across the United States are struggling as big papers like the New York Times double down on a digital offer and a growing subscriber base. Not only does this diminish the diversity of perspectives that used to characterise local news in the US, but also removes the focus on local politics and the scrutiny thereof. While this is not the Times’ intention, the effects of consolidation are felt in the coverage of decisions that affect ordinary people’s lives.
Sourced from Pew, Axios, FCC; additional content by WARC staff