Not only is 70K member American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO opposed to any relaxation of broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership restrictions, it also believes the FCC should explore ways to clamp down on joint news agreements, which it believes simply constitute an end-around of the regulations.
One of AFTRA’s main concerns should surprise nobody: It is understandably worried that further media consolidation will cost some of its members their jobs.
AFTRA filed its comments with the FCC as it works its way through the 2010 quadrennial review. It stated, “Relaxing ownership rules will lead to a less competitive media marketplace that is less responsive to the public need for information. Moreover, the continued and widespread use of joint news agreements will exacerbate those harms by rendering any rules less effective. We urge that the Commission strongly consider imposing restrictions on the use of such agreements, to prevent media owners from circumventing the intent and letter of the Commission’s rules.”
AFTRA argues that the economic benefits of consolidation have been used by the consolidators to strengthen their bottom lines rather than to strengthen their journalism operations, and that the amount of local news and overall quality of reporting has suffered.
The organization made two recommendations:
1) promulgate new rules restricting the use of these arrangements, or in the alternative, build into its existing rules the requirement that the Commission consider these arrangements in reviewing ownership licenses
2) The FCC should review its existing media ownership rules with these arrangements in mind and should retain the existing rules as a way to combat the harm these agreements post to the public’s access to information
RBR-TVBR observation: The opposite side to this coin is the worry that if newspapers don’t get some kind of help, far from being overly-dominant players in the news business, they won’t be players at all. In fact, many believe many more may disappear even with a helping regulatory hand.