The Associated Press recently reported that the Federal Communications Commission buried a staff report showing the downside of concentrated media ownership of television stations. Specifically that report “suggests that locally owned television broadcast stations air more local news than network-owned and operated and non-locally owned stations.”
Now StopBigMedia.com, an umbrella group of activist organizations, has posted a second report, this one on concentrated radio ownership. The coalition says this study (a link to which I will post below) was withheld from public view until provided to this group by a whistleblower inside the FCC. This study looked not at the news but at the numbers that describe the radio industry in the wake of the regulatory overhaul ushered in by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In brief the second suppressed report says the big chains have gotten bigger and hints that economic competition has been lessened. I quote:
“In 1996, the two largest radio station group owners consisted of fewer than 65 radio stations each. By March 2003, the leading radio group, Clear Channel Communications, owned over 1,200 radio stations. The second largest group owner, Cumulus Broadcasting Inc. had just over 250 stations … (W)efind that radio listening has declined slightly since 1998, and radio ad rates have increased almost 86 percent since 1996.”
Here is a link to the radio report (which appears to be a scanned file that is a bit clunky to print but has a lot of info in its 80-plus pages).
FCC Commission Chairman Kevin Martin has written Senator Barbara Boxer — who has been central to the poking and prodding that has helped to out these documents — promising an investigation of these incidents by the FCC Inspector General.
All this comes as the FCC prepares to revise media ownership caps. Here is the FCC document on that. The FCC will hold a public hearing on this issue in Los Angeles on October 3, but the notice so far contains few logistical details.
I’ve ranted and I’ve raved about concentration before. So no need to repeat. Let’s just keep focus on this process and trust that the aggregation of mini media voices will be sufficient to stop the mass media from growing more massive still.