"A Death Sentence for Local Media"

Posted by Dale Eisman on October 26, 2017


Mergers and acquisitions are all the rage in the telecommunications industry these days. Sinclair Broadcasting is trying to acquire Tribune; T-Mobile and Sprint are said to be on the verge of a mega-deal.

And now the industry’s giants have joined forces to take control of the Federal Communications Commission.

I exaggerate, but not by much. FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced late Wednesday that the commission will vote next month to eliminate decades-old rules that bar an individual or corporation from owning a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market.

Pai’s move came just days after the commission’s Republican majority lifted rules requiring television station owners to operate a main studio in the locality from which each station broadcasts. And that move follows by a few months the FCC’s decision to relax a longstanding limit on the number of local stations a single company can own, a policy change that removes an important obstacle to the Sinclair-Tribune merger.

At this rate, the FCC will soon work its way out of a job and broadcasters will have free reign over the public airwaves. And that’s trouble for American democracy.

“Media monopolization imperils democracy - fewer press outlets mean less of the accountability journalism that American voters depend on to cast informed ballots,” said Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner who now serves as special adviser to Common Cause on media and democracy. “Meanwhile corrupt politicians can rest easy that the depleted local press corps will be less likely to report on graft. Chairman Pai’s anti-public interest wrecking ball is poised to strike again.”

Pai “has lost all sense of self-restraint,” Copps told The New York Times. Lifting the ban on common ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets is “a virtual death sentence for local media.”

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Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Media and Democracy

Tags: Media Monopolization

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