A Hopeful Sign From FCC On Media Consolidation

Posted on July 25, 2014

The state of broadcasting can be pretty dire. Corporate monopolization has given us homogenized content that poorly serves local communities. There are still far too few women and minority owners.  Layoffs have decimated newsrooms, resulting in less investigative journalism and a less informed local electorate.  

And the FCC blessed much of this. Sometimes the commission explicitly gave media moguls a green light to snatch up competitors. At other times it permitted broadcasters to buy each other up or exploit loopholes in the ownership rules. These "shared services" or "sidecar" arrangements allow one station to assert de-facto control over another, violating the spirit of localism and diversity.

Common Cause cheered the agency in March when it put an end to these industry tricks of the trade. And we were pleased that they followed through yesterday as they approved a transaction between mega broadcaster Sinclair and Allbritton Communications. 

While we'd rather see this sort of deal rejected out of hand as a matter of course (we challenged a similar consolidation between Gannett and Belo Corp. last year), we were glad to see the FCC get serious about closing loopholes. 

The deal is going forward without problematic sharing deals in three markets, creating new opportunities for local or diverse ownership. Viewers in Birmingham, Harrisburg and Charleston, S.C. all stand to benefit. 

We aren't back to the world of diverse media, and we should put the brakes on other mega mergers -- like Comcast's attempt to buy up Time Warner Cable -- but this is a welcome development. 

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Media and Democracy

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