What's wrong with the current media picture?
While there are more television channels, radio stations, and Internet choices then ever, that doesn't mean there is a greater variety of entertainment, news and information. That's because much of what you see, hear, and read today is under the control of a handful of large companies.
Media Corporations Get Bigger
Today, six corporations control most of what you see on television. One company has gobbled up more than 1,000 radio stations across the country. And since 1975, two-thirds of all independently-owned newspapers have disappeared. This is a dangerous trend. Access to diverse sources of information is the bedrock of a functioning democratic society. Americans depend on television and newspapers to learn about the news, understand national and local issues and make informed choices. Media consolidation means fewer independent pipelines are available to distribute news, entertainment and information to consumers and fewer voices have a chance to be heard.
Americans Still Depend on Traditional Broadcast Television and Local Newspapers
The central argument of big companies pushing the government to relax media ownership rules is that the explosion of the Internet has altered the media landscape and offers people countless and diverse sources of news and information. The facts suggest the opposite. While Americans may be surfing the Internet at an increasing rate, a majority are still turning to their local television and newspapers for news and information. When they do use the Internet as a news source, they go to traditional news sources such as CNN or the Wall Street Journal, or a local newspaper/TV station.com. Popular Internet portals such as Google and Yahoo don't actually produce their own news and information; they simply guide users to traditional news sources. Alternative web sites and blogs, which may offer a diversity of opinions and information, are still only used by about 10 percent of Americans. (Nov/Dec 2005 Pew Internet and American Life Project).
Television Stations and Newspapers are Financially Sound
Big media companies also argue consolidation is necessary to save local television stations and newspapers from bankruptcy. While newspapers and broadcasters need to develop stronger strategies to attract revenue from readers/viewers who access their content on the Internet, there is no evidence that suggest that combining local newspapers and TV stations will help. According to a June 2006 Washington Post article, local newspapers are commonly generating a 20 percent profit margin – “higher than that of most business.” And a recent Wall Street Journal article points out that local broadcast stations yield similar profits, in some cases as much as a 40 percent margin.
Local News and Information Suffers Under Consolidation
The consolidation of local media damages communities and citizens. In many areas there are fewer and fewer locally owned radio stations, television stations or newspapers. Corporate owners often cut costs by centralizing operations elsewhere. Instead of covering local news stories, they send communities pre-packaged programs from a main office that could be hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.
FCC Media Rules
Longstanding media ownership rules have served as an important check on media companies, controlling how much they may own and promoting journalistic competition among them. Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress have been trying to soften those limits -- or remove them altogether. In 2003, nearly three million Americans joined with public interest groups such as Consumers Union to fight back against an FCC proposal to remove nearly all of its media ownership regulations. Had it been implemented, that proposal would have permitted a single company to own a community's local newspaper, eight radio stations, three TV stations, and the local cable system. Fortunately, a federal appeals court rejected the rule changes in 2004.
The FCC is now in the process of rewriting its media ownership rules again, however. Americans across the nation need to be heard to ensure that the FCC establishes media rules that preserve competition, support localism and guarantee that diverse opinions and viewpoints are aired.