Sunday, September 17, 2006

Destroyed study showed locally-owned TV produces more local news

It's not a result that should surprise anyone, but apparently former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell was surprised by it.
When Powell was in that post, he commissioned a study designed to show that outside ownership and owners who own several stations provide just as much local news and do just as much for the community as locally-based owners.
When the results did not turn out the way he wanted them to, Powell purportedly had the study destroyed:

Three years ago, then-FCC chair Michael Powell launched a proceeding on the effects of local ownership on television news as part of his drive to further deregulate media and allow for even greater consolidation. But the report commissioned under Powell turned out to undermine his argument that consolidation has no ill effects on local news, and, according to former FCC lawyer Adam Candeub, senior managers ordered "every last piece" of the study destroyed (AP, 9/14/06). On September 12, Senator Barbara Boxer, armed with the leaked report, questioned current FCC Chair Kevin Martin about it at his renomination hearing.

According to the report, locally owned stations in fact deliver nearly six minutes more of total news and almost five-and-a-half more minutes of local news in a 30-minute newscast than stations with non-local owners. This adds up to 33 more hours of local news a year--a remarkable figure, and a damning one for big media's allies in the FCC, who are required to protect the public interest and to promote localism.

I would be interested in comments from readers concerning what effect, if any, outside ownership and ownership of more than one station has had on local television coverage in the Joplin and Springfield areas.


Anonymous said...

Well, with KOLR local news content increased after the Cooper family sold the station.

Now KOLR has 2 hours in the morning( When the Coopers owned KOLR the morning show was considerably shorter.), a half hour at 11
Half hour at 5 and 6
and 35 minutes at 10.

So, at lease an increase of an hour on KOLR.

Add to that an hour newscast on KSFX at 9.

So, when you look at just KOLR/KSFX non-local ownership increased locally produced news content by at least an hour and a half.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if they meant hours or actual news stories. Let's face it, the extended Morning shows repeat each half hour, so it isn't more news, just the same news repeated more often. Additionally, the CBS/FOX Springfield comparison begs the question as it does in Joplin with ABC/NBC. Are they doing the same stories on two different channels or are they doing two independany newscast. If you watch both simultaneously, which most of us can't do, or if you record one and make notes on the other, do you really think they are independant and unique?

Anonymous said...

The FCC study examined the "impact of local ownership on the number of local news seconds and local on-location news seconds during each station's half-hour local news broadcast." The study distinguished local news as produced by the station, not from a network or other service. The research looked only at one specific time period, not all newscasts produced by a station.

Twenty markets were used in the study, including St. Louis. Large, medium and small markets were included.

The study report is available from Free Press at It specifies how the researchers defined localism and local ownership.

Frankly, I'm not surprised by the results, given the shrinking budgets for news staff at most stations in order to maximize profits.

Anonymous said...