FCC Looks to Choke Off Competition in Local News Coverage

FCC Looks to Choke Off Competition in Local News Coverage

Competition is good, right? So why does Trump's FCC oppose it in the news business?

It’s an article of faith among Republicans – and more than a few Democrats – that robust competition in the marketplace stimulates innovation and better products for consumers.

So why in the world are President Trump’s appointees to the Federal Communications Commission, loyal Republicans all, so hellbent on stifling competition in the news business?

That’s what the 3-2 GOP majority on the FCC did Thursday as it voted to relax longstanding rules that promoted journalistic competition by limiting the number of broadcast stations a single company can control in each media market.

The commission “just wiped away time-tested and common sense safeguards that promote vibrant local media by ensuring voters have access to competing sources of news,” said Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner who now serves as special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “By blessing consolidation, this majority has ensured newsroom redundancy, meaning fewer working journalists to hold the powerful to account.”

The new rules will permit Trump-friendly Sinclair Broadcasting, which already owns or operates 173 TV stations across the country, to complete its purchase of Tribune Media. The combined companies will be able to reach about three-fourths of the American viewing public.

Sinclair is not a broadcast network like NBC or CBS, two frequent targets of Trump’s ire, and so does not have a national newscast or cable news outlet like Fox News, whose most prominent anchors are seen as Trump supporters. But the Baltimore-based company is unabashedly conservative and partisan and regularly orders its stations across the country to air news segments that reflect its pro-Republican and pro-Trump tilt.

The new FCC rules also relax regulations that have promoted competition between newspapers and local TV stations, both of which are struggling to cope with the loss of readers and viewers to online outlets that are heavy on opinion but rarely make substantial investments in news coverage.

Publishers and broadcasters, eager for ways to cut costs, say the new rules will allow them to merge newsrooms. But the inevitable result of those combinations is less competition, with fewer reporters watching the workings of state legislatures, city councils and school boards, or tracking cops on the beat.