More Local Programming For TV Stations: Fin-Syn Redux?

The Federal Communications Commission wants local TV stations to get closer to its customers -- and what better way than requiring those outlets to run more local programming?

But this is not just more local news. We think it smells like something circa 1970.

Back in 1970, the FCC put forth the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules -- the Fin-Syn Rules -- to wean stations off programming provided by the big three networks. The hope was that stations would find programming more suited to their own local tastes.

That didn't work out too well. It merely fueled the efforts of bigger, more national producers, helping to launch the syndication industry, which helped reap profits for large studios, soon to be followed by larger, network-minded media companies.

Stations didn't complain, however, since many made millions on the likes of reruns of "M.A.S.H," "Donahue" and "Oprah Winfrey."



Those efforts really didn't address local needs. Sure, TV stations sank millions into ramping up multi-hour local newscasts, which made plenty of money for them as well. (A good "Donahue" or "Oprah" lead-in also didn't hurt).

Now, the FCC wants to encourage -- if not demand -- that stations establish local community boards that might help decide what local programming should be aired. 

One would think, with the coming of the digital video age, TV outlets should be aggressive in finding ways to differentiate themselves --thinking more locally.  Station brand names still have big value for local consumers.

More local programming makes sense -- in theory -- to compete with the bigger YouTubes of the world. But as we all know, anything FCC- mandated will have a ton of procedural snags waiting to drag down any smooth-running TV station outlet.

In that regard -- and more -- we can all expect TV station groups and other interested parties to contest the FCC-mandated local programming effort.

Why? Because big money will be lost if a station is forced to replace a wildly profitable "Judge Judy" with some no-name, locally produced effort.

The FCC seems to be focused on consumers, naturally -- but maybe, too, local TV businesses' long-term financial health. Traditional TV station groups will sniff, but not bite -- wondering how much it will cost them in the near term.

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