Friday, December 15, 2017

FCC moves toward lifting cap on ownership of TV stations, which could affect local news reporting

New York Times graphic; click on the image for a larger version.
In addition to its repeal of net-neutrality regulations, the Federal Communications Commission also voted yesterday along party lines to review the rule that limits ownership of local broadcast stations by a single entity. The rule limits each broadcast company to an aggregate reach of 39 percent of U.S. television households, Jason Aycock reports for Seeking Alpha, an investment-advice service.

Repealing the audience-cap rule would mostly benefit Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is the nation's largest owner of television stations and is seeking a $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media Co. If the merger goes through -- and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will, if Sinclair will sell off a dozen stations -- Sinclair will control a total of 233 stations across 108 markets nationwide, Brent Kendall and John McKinnon report for The Wall Street Journal.

If Sinclair has stations in 70 percent of the nation's TV news markets, that could mean a big change in the quality of local news, especially in rural areas. The FCC repealed the "main studio rule" in late October, which obliged broadcast outlets to operate a main studio in or near each community in which they are licensed. Without that rule, Sinclair and other conglomerates could shutter local news studios and move news production to larger regional or national hubs to save money, Newsmax Chairman Christopher Ruddy wrote in The Washington Post.

Mitch Herckis reports for Route Fifty, "The outcome will likely be the elimination of many American communities’ primary lens for understanding the impact of local politics and policies, as well as a primary source of guidance when emergencies occur."

Critics are also concerned that Sinclair would unfairly influence audiences with conservatively-biased content. The attorneys general from Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island spoke out in opposition to the merger, saying that the company is too cozy with the Trump administration, and forced stations to provide favorable coverage to Trump during his campaign, Mike Snider reports for USA Today.

No comments: