BY JENN ETTINGER — On Wednesday, SavetheNews.org launched “Change the Channels,” a new campaign focused on exposing the new face of media consolidation.
Across the country, hundreds of TV stations have quietly merged newsrooms, circumventing the Federal Communications Commission’s media ownership limits at the expense of independent, local journalism.
“Change the Channels” features an interactive map highlighting each city impacted by covert consolidation and shared news operations. The map highlights eight communities that are home to some of the worst examples of covert consolidation, including Hawaii.
In Honolulu, there is a covert consolidation agreement currently being investigated by the FCC. As a result of a series of deals between Raycom Media and MCG Capital, all news operations for the top stations in Hawaii are based out of the same building and collected on the same website, “Hawaii News Now.” While the original stations remain on the air, they do so only as a shell of their former selves. To viewers, all appearances suggest that the stations have become a single entity.
To view the interactive map click: https://www.savethenews.org/changethechannels
“With the majority of Americans getting their news from local broadcast TV, and the lion’s share of local online news originating from local TV stations, we cannot afford to let media companies use covert consolidation to squat on our public airwaves,” said Libby Reinish, program coordinator of Free Press, the group behind SavetheNews.org and Change the Channels. “The news and information needs of our communities cannot be met when photocopy news is allowed to stand in for real news in the public interest.”
In its recent report on the “Information Needs of Communities,” the Federal Communications Commission revealed that more than 20 percent of commercial TV stations broadcast no local news and of those that do, “Nearly one-third of TV stations say they are running news produced by another station.” Free Press has identified nearly 80 markets where these deals are in place, involving more than 200 stations.
In most cases, these partnerships are established through deals that circumvent the FCC’s media ownership limits, while producing exactly the sorts of results the FCC rules are meant to help avoid: a decrease in competition, diversity and localism.
Coinciding with the campaign launch, Free Press also released a new report providing case studies of covert consolidation deals.
To read the paper and case studies click here: https://www.savethenews.org/sites/savethenews.org/files/Final%20Outsourcing%20the%20News.pdf
“The FCC should actively investigate these covert consolidation deals and develop standards and oversight mechanisms to protect and promote localism, diversity and competition in local TV, so that people can get the news and information they need,” said Reinish.