The battle over who will be serving up Americans their news and media content is headed for the courtroom in 2018.
The Federal Communications Commission’s moves in 2017 to ease media ownership rules could lead to a surge of TV broadcasters consolidating stations and reshaping American’s access to local journalism.
Media consolidation opponents are gearing up for court battles in 2018, but the outcome is hazy, Bloomberg Law tech and telecom reporter Kyle Daly said in a recent episode of Code & Conduit.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai led the charge to eliminate and relax rules for local media property ownership in November. He also started in December the process of potentially relaxing a nationwide cap on broadcasters’ national market reach.
Proponents say loosening these limits would open opportunities for broadcasters to buy cross-platform media platforms – like newspapers, radio stations, and other TV stations – and give struggling outlets a leg-up in an environment increasingly dominated by digital media.
“The idea is, let’s lift some restrictions that predate the internet and make it easier for these guys to get bigger,” Daly said.
“We haven’t seen the online companies be able to make local journalism work really,” he said. “So if you want media about your community, you’ve got go to the broadcasters and the newspapers, which have obviously struggled.”
Consumer advocates and public interest groups say relaxing ownership rules could have the opposite effect. The spat of media consolidation that is likely to follow would erode diverse ownership of media stations, they say. There’s also concern that large broadcast companies, like Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., that mandate local stations play nationally syndicated news stories instead of locally produced ones will stifle community journalism, he said.
“The concern is that there’s going to be less of a local focus, that it’s going to be this sort of top-down style of management telling stations, ‘Here’s what you have to cover,’” Daly said. “That diverse and local voices are just going to be completely crowded out."
You can read more reporting about the FCC and media ownership on our tech, telecom and internet blog or on Bloomberg Law. If you liked what you heard in the podcast, sign up for a free trial of Bloomberg BNA’s legal and regulatory news and content.
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