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.