Twelve linked studies of media ownership within the United States were published Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission. They survey consumers’ use of media, how ownership changes impact on advertising, and other aspects of the stateside media scene.
Says FCC chairman Michael Powell: “This effort is the most comprehensive look at media ownership regulation ever undertaken by the FCC. As the courts have made clear, it is critical that the FCC has a solid factual base to support its media ownership rules. Collectively, these studies represent an unprecedented data-gathering effort.”
Key findings emerging from the studies are:
•The number of independent media outlets increased 195% since 1960 in ten markets, and the number of independent owners of those outlets increased by 139%. Diversity of voices is a key consideration underlying many of the FCC's ownership rules.
•Broadcast TV's viewership share dropped 31% all-day and by 33% in primetime between 1990 and 2001. Its share of video advertising revenue also dropped, but by only 21%, according to the study that forecast continuing audience fragmentation and pressure on broadcast advertising revenues.
•Between 1996 and 2002, the average number of radio station owners in each market decreased from 13.5 to 9.9. In 1996 the largest station in each market received an average of 35.6 percent of radio advertising revenue, a figure that had risen to 46.8 percent by 2002.
•Increased consolidation in radio marketplaces drives about 3%-4% out of the sixty-eight percent increase in advertising rates between 1996 and 2001.
•Network owned-and-operated TV stations receive more awards for news programming than do affiliates, even thought the two types of stations get similar ratings for their early evening newscasts. Affiliates owned by a newspaper have more and better news than other affiliates.
•Among ten commonly owned local newspaper-TV combinations, five exhibited a similar slant in following the 2000 presidential race and five exhibited divergent slants. No conclusion was reached as to whether common ownership results in a common viewpoint in news coverage. Among the rules under review is a ban on daily newspapers owning nearby broadcast stations. Some combinations exist under exceptions.
The FCC is inviting public and business comment on the reports and their views will be taken into account during its appraisal of existing rules. This is scheduled for completion next spring when the FCC’s politically-appointed commissioners will decide what changes, if any, are appropriate.
Data sourced from: MediaWeek.com (USA); additional content by WARC staff