New economic study shows: more media consolidation will hurt Washington cities

"This study provides further evidence that trends toward greater media consolidation are completely at odds with the kind of media our culture and democracy need to be healthy," said Reclaim the Media executive director Jonathan Lawson. "Last year the FCC began, but never completed, a study of how media ownership concentration affects local accountability. The commission should finish that study and take an honest look at this new data before even considering more changes to the ownership rules."

Dwindling Newspapers, TV and Radio Stations
Since 1996 the FCC has quickly whittled away at what Washington residents are able to read, hear and see. Further media consolidation will affect every resident of Washington by reducing the number media organizations that serve them. Diversity of media organizations equals diversity of view points, which ensures that the public receive robust debate on issues of community concern.

Diversity of Media Protects Democracy
Local radio, television and newspapers provide crucial information informing voters of an incumbent’s track record or the background and platform of challenging candidates. The study reveals how Washington’s cities will lose choice and supply of critical local media if the FCC’s proposed regulation takes effect, allowing the largest newspapers and largest TV stations to merge.

Key Findings: How Would Big Media Mergers Impact Washington Cities?

Seattle: Washington’s most diverse and most populous city, currently one of the largest media markets in the country and one of the few large media markets that remain diverse. In the aftermath of proposed FCC rules, Seattle will end up with homogenous media that cannot address the needs of this city’s diverse population. The dominant newspapers in the Seattle Arbitron market are the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Seattle Times, and the Tacoma News Tribune. In TV, the major outlets are KING, KIRO, KOMO, and KCPQ (Q-13).

Impact of Mergers: Even in Seattle, one of the largest and least concentrated markets in the country, any cross-media merger involving the top two newspapers and TV outlets would increase concentration in excess of DOJ/FTC Merger Guidelines.

Spokane: In Eastern Washington's largest city and dominant media market, it is critical to maintain diversity of media outlets to ensure fair coverage and reporting After consolidation, Spokane media outlets would be vulnerable to domination by powerful interests. The dominant newspaper is the Spokesman Review. In TV the outlets are KHQ, KXLY, and KREM.

Impact of Mergers: The Spokane market would be severely impacted by cross-media mergers. Every merger between a major TV station and the leading newspaper would violate the Merger Guidelines by a wide margin.

Yakima: This city reflects the media battle that lies ahead for most of the smaller cities across Washington. The city’s media offerings are already slim due to years of consolidation and further consolidation would essentially create a media monopoly. The major newspaper is the Yakima Herald Republic. The major TV outlets are KNDO, KIMA and KAPP.

Impact of Mergers: Because of the dominant position of the newspaper and three dominant television stations, any single merger violates the Guidelines by a wide margin.

Why This Matters:

How big the media gets matters to our democracy at all levels of government, including the local level. The Supreme Court has long held that "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the public welfare."

Broadcast licenses give their holders powerful public voices that are not available to every citizen. They pose a challenge in a society whose democracy relies on vigorous debate over public policy and social issues. The Courts have long accepted limitation on ownership of media outlets by those who hold broadcast licenses as “a reasonable means of promoting the public interest in diversified mass communications.”

Further, local accountability is important because of our federal system of government that elects representatives on a local basis and places a great deal of emphasis on local policy for critically important issues – like public safety and education. "Localism" remains vital in media policy because citizens rely overwhelmingly on traditional outlets for information – local television stations and daily newspapers.

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Reclaim the Media

Reclaim the Media is a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to pursuing a more just society by transforming our media system, and expanding the communications rights of ordinary people through grassroots organizing, education, networking and advocacy. The group advocates for a free and diverse press, community access to communications tools and technology, and media policy that serves the public interest. Information: www.reclaimthemedia.org

Media and Democracy Coalition

The MDC is a broad-based coalition of local and national media reform, civil rights, creative artis, consumer, justice and democracy organizations working to stop further media consolidation and to guarantee that Internet and broadband access are affordable, accessible, fast and available to all. Information: www.media-democracy.net

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey