Local News Sharing Means Lost Jobs, Less Original Content

Local TV news advertisers may not be getting all they bargained for when it comes to buying different TV stations' news programs.

A new report from University of Delaware’s Center for Community Research and Service says TV news programs operating through local marketing agreements or joint operating agreements -- where one entity owns or operates two or more stations in a market -- do not deliver unique news content to its local TV viewers most of the time.

In surveying eight U.S. TV markets -- Denver; Peoria, Ill.; Dayton; Des Moines, Jacksonville; Burlington, Vt; Columbus, Ga; and Wichita Falls, Texas -- many stations owned or operated by a company share over 50% of local news content -- to as high as 98%, in one case.

In Denver, for example, the survey says stations that have a joint service agreement shared the same stories 71% of the time. In Dayton, two stations under the same local service agreements aired the same stories 98% of the time.

And then, of course, there is cost savings when it comes to personnel. In the Peoria, Ill. market, for example, 30 employees were laid off and 16 were transferred to another station within the market.

The University of Delaware study focused on three key factors under attack: diversity, competition and localism. The study says this can be a problem because “local television news still holds a preeminent position as a news source for the public."

The study cites data from the Pew Research Center that show 64% of people get their local news from television; 41% from newspapers; 18% from radio; and 17% from the Internet. Also, according to Pew Research, local news is still the most profitable type of programming for local stations, totalling 44% of its profits.

Local TV advertisers may not always be concerned about content. But other analysts say they might well be, considering that TV stations'  newscasts -- and broadcasting in general -- have seen ratings slow and consistent declines over the last couple of decades.



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