As new FCC Chairperson Tom Wheeler takes office, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Gannett, Media General, Nexstar and the Tribune Company are establishing shell companies to evade federal limits on how much media one entity can control. The wave of consolidation is taking place in small and medium-sized markets where the presence of such conglomerates will be even more keenly felt. The FCC has hastened this situation by failing to enforce existing regulations. The regulatory body is failing to enforce rules prohibiting use of “outsourcing agreements,” allowing for control of multiple stations in a single market.
The result is an increased decay of local news, with more journalists being laid off, few reporters covering local public affairs, and stations mirroring the same stories on multiple channels. Further, broadcast entities such as Sinclair are failing to reinvest profits and instead buyout competitors and thereby increase their reach. Sinclair also uses its outlets to push overt political agendas and exert influence over election outcomes. In 2004 Sinclair made its stations run anti-Kerry propaganda, and on the eve of the 2012 presidential election news anchors were compelled to read from a pro-Romney script.
“If Tom Wheeler wants to be an honest regulator, he should end the dishonest practice of covert consolidation,” S. Derek Turner, Director of Research for media watch group Free Press said. “By closing these loopholes, Mr. Wheeler and the FCC can give truly independent owners a chance to compete fairly to better serve their communities.”
Josh Sterns, “Media Giants are Devouring Local TV,” MediaChannel.org, October 23, 2013, http://www.mediachannel.org/media-giants-are-devouring-local-tv/.
S. Derek Turner, “How the FCC’s Failure to Enforce Its Rules Created a New Wave of Media Consolidation,” Free Press, October 2013, http://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/resources/Cease_to_Resist_Oct._2013_0.pdf.
Student Researcher: Christopher Collins (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Advisor: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)