The FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics has issued a working paper giving the next FCC something to think about when it decides whether to allow mergers that reduce the number of station owners in a market. The paper, which was issued only days before the FCC heads to the Supreme Court -to defend its efforts to deregulate TV station ownership, looks at the relationship between the number of independently owned local television news operations and market size and the size thresholds above which a market will be able to sustain, economically, two, three or four or more such operations.
Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says that local broadcasting’s focus on serving the public good “is being stealthily watered down, with the industry’s support, by the Trump FCC. In little-noticed decisions, the agency has been removing regulatory requirements to protect broadcast localism, shield a diversity of local voices and avoid the establishment of a dominant national broadcaster.”
NAB’s Dennis Wharton: “It’s been apparent for years that there is a concerted effort by broadcasting’s primary competitors to eliminate local TV as a competitive threat to their nirvana world — a world where “free” is eliminated from the telecommunications lexicon and programming content is only made available to those who will pay for it. In their world, the highest and best use of spectrum is used only by those who charge a fee for delivering content. But only of late have we been confronted with the bald-faced falsehood that ‘localism is a myth.’ ”
The NBC-owned group of Spanish-language stations has reversed course from a 2006 decision to reduce its locally produced news programming and is actively beefing up its local news and programming both on the air and online as well as in the growing mobile space. Ronald Gordon, president of the Telemundo Television Station Group, explains the strategy behind the change and describes the progress made so far.