Friday, November 8, 2013

Something's happening to local news

Will Farrell as the fictional news San Diego anchorman Ron Burgundy

Something's happening to local news
Submitted: November 7, 2013 - 6:04pm
Originally published: November 7, 2013
Last updated: November 8, 2013 - 2:08pm
Source: Baltimore Sun
Authors: Jenn Topper S Derek Turner

Free Press (DC), 501 Third Street NW, Washington, DC, 20001, United States

[Commentary] So far this year, 223 local TV stations have changed hands. This is the biggest wave of media consolidation ever -- and it's all happening in small and mid-level markets, involving companies most people have never heard of.

Leading this wave is Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair alone is behind seven deals, including a $985-million deal to buy nine stations from Allbritton Communications. But it's not alone; other media companies are also racing to gobble up stations. And these companies are doing everything they can to maximize profits. The Federal Communications Commission has limits on how many stations one person or company can own in a given market. But, as a new report from public interest group Free Press shows, companies like Sinclair are using outsourcing agreements and shell companies to skirt the rules and create media fiefdoms in markets all over the country.

In a response to the report, Sinclair said it "completely complies" with the law and objects to claims that it uses shell companies and shady tactics to dodge FCC rules. But in nearly all instances, the only asset a Sinclair shell company owns is a station license. Under FCC rules, Sinclair is able to claim that the shells are separate entities despite clear evidence to the contrary. The impact of this covert consolidation on local news is being felt across the nation. Companies like Sinclair are closing newsrooms, laying off journalists — and in many cases, airing the same broadcast on multiple stations in a single market. In these communities, viewers can change the channel, but they'll find the exact same anchors and stories.

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