Consolidation debate hits the mainstream


The ongoing battle over media consolidation and FCC rules regarding ownership is well-known to consumers of the trade press, but it’s inside baseball to most others. But the Associated Press just put out an article laying the debate out for general consumers.

The latest quadrennial review is under way despite the fact that the one initiated way back under the FCC of Michael Powell remains unresolved.

The battle lines have changed little. Broadcast companies most frequently cite their desire for relaxed cross-ownership rules and relaxed television duopoly rules.

Watchdogs, on the other hand, decry the worsening diversity situation and loss of divergent perspectives and local coverage when it comes to the fulfilling the media’s journalistic watchdog role.

Other watchdogs note that unless they can achieve even more economies of scale, may broadcast companies will not be able to stay in business, much less provide expensive news coverage.

To which the first group of watchdogs reply that decisions on the health of the media, and further relaxation of the rules, should not occur this close to the nadir of a general economic pitfall, when improvement may bring broadcast companies back into financial health along with other businesses of all types.

The battle will be played out throughout the rest of the year and beyond at the FCC and elsewhere.

RBR-TVBR observation: Is the entire debate an exercise in futility? We note former FCC Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree’s comment that the future of electronic media may be troubled regardless of new regulatory freedoms. That question will take some serious pondering if a negative result is to be avoided.

As far as AP bringing the media ownership debate to the attention of the average citizen, we doubt many will see the article, and few that do see it will read it very carefully. The battle will have no effect on a single midterm election, and will be waged by regulators, stakeholders and watchdogs in relative obscurity.

But we’ll be there.