The media ownership problem

Media conglomeration affects a lot, of course, but over and over, the members of the public who spoke, spoke of homogenized news – and more specifically – the quality of local news.

This is a story that hits home for me, since I work in the news media. One of the latest reports on PBS’s Bill Moyers is on proposed new relaxations of media ownership rules. Moyers was very critical of the way the FCC handled this recent round of proposed changes, because of a rushed public comment period.

I attended one of FCC’s public comment meetings in person last year, in order to cover the story for my previous news outlet. Every person who got up to speak to the FCC commissioners had nothing good to say about media consolidation, and urged the commissioners to not relax ownership rules.

And the most telling part: the examples that the public used to make their points almost always were based on news coverage. Media conglomeration affects a lot, of course, but over and over, the members of the public who spoke, spoke of homogenized news – and more specifically – the quality of local news.

The snag, of course, is that what the public was complaining about was a far more complex problem than any one set of rules. Homogenization of news outlets, what is covered and what isn’t, the quality and quantity of substantive news coverage – these, in summary, were the frustrations of the FCC meeting attendees. They were imploring the commissioners to find solutions and improve the media landscape. It appears, according to Moyers’ report, that those frustrations are growing and increasingly being channeled toward certain policies and people.

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