Media Consolidation Could Imperil Local TV Newscasts

A free and diverse group of local TV newscasts could be threatened by letting TV station owners acquire as many TV stations as they like, according to parties who worry about media consolidation.

But is this the complete picture?  

The conservative-leaning Newsmax Media cable news channel/website stated recently: "By nationalizing their footprints, broadcast ownership groups are able to use the tools meant to ensure free and local content to force out competition from independent programmers and raise pay-TV prices.”  

No surprise here: Newsmax has been opposing the Sinclair-Tribune merger for some time.

In addition, the FCC has been reviewing its longtime TV station ownership cap, in which owners of TV stations cannot exceed 39% of U.S. TV households. A Sinclair-Tribune combination would put the newly merged company at least over 45%.



But missing from much of the overall discussion is digital media -- which includes social media.

We know that 60% or so of U.S. media consumers regularly get their “news” from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks and sites. And yes, much of the content can be considered fake, misleading and manipulative.  

But how much will this really change in the coming years, with or without possible regulation of those social-media areas? Millions of U.S. media consumers will remain on their Facebook accounts for years to come.

Focusing on just one area of media -- local TV stations -- is what got many traditional media owners in trouble in the first place. Unfortunately, the bigger media world continues to grow wildly -- even as we look to serious journalists to tell a complete story.

It’s part of the same argument interested parties make when it comes to inappropriate content -- sex, violence, or otherwise -- when just looking at traditional TV networks. It's as if digital media wasn't part of the media mix.

This doesn’t make sense when traditional TV networks' content makes its way to digital media platforms -- their own, others, advertising-supported and non-ad supported.

There are different regulatory content rules when it comes to broadcast networks -- even as many cable networks present programming and ad content in similar ways to broadcast. Digital media? Those regulatory hurdles are much lower. The presentation of all content can look very different.

Local TV newscasts continue to be of value. But a wider view is needed to see where it goes from here.

2 comments about "Media Consolidation Could Imperil Local TV Newscasts".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 22, 2018 at 8:15 p.m.

    Wayne, I'm a little confused by this. You say that by focusing too much on local TV---station ownership---- many traditional media owners got into trouble. I think that some media groups made the mistake of acquiring small town TV stations and that has cost them as many of these don't make a profit. However, the major media owners---the broadcast TV networks, for example, have cleaned up---profit-wise----with their O&O large market station groups and many other stations in the top 100 markets are very prifitable. So what's the problem?

    As for content generation, yes, it's true that news is the primary output of most TV stations and it is why they are so profitable. The stations are simply not geared up to reduce their local news output in favor of "other" content. As things now stand, local TV stations are getting substantial re-transmission fees from cable and other program distribution services. Why would they jeopardise those highly profitable incomes by going in another direction with alternative program content---even if they had the resources and skills to do so?

    It has been suggested that the stations, in effect, syndicate their local news content to digital media or that they should put much more of it on their websites, drive users to said sites and monetize them by selling ads. But will this create so much local news content that it becomes a glut? Are voluminous ad sales a given?And might the availability of local news via digital cost the stations'  "on-air" news ratings to erode even faster  than is now happening?

    I happen to think that the stations could create a form of super local news for digital venues that would not compete with what they offer now in their newscasts. In other words bore right in to the neighborhood level on a daily basis and otherwise come up with content that is "original" in nature and not redundent. But this requires a great deal of experimenting a different breed of reporter, as well editors and presentation techniques that are designed for the digital scene, not "TV". Will this happen? I don't know.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 22, 2018 at 10:16 p.m.

    Fascism is not an overnight sensation; one step at a time.

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