Broad range of public concerned about media consolidation, poll finds

[from the Media and Democracy Coalition]

As the Federal Communications Commission convenes a public hearing on media ownership today in Washington D.C., a coalition of groups released a new poll that shows strong public concern over media consolidation. The nationwide poll also shows that the public supports the “cross-ownership ban,” a long-standing rule that prevents one company from owning a broadcast station and the major daily newspaper in most markets. The FCC may vote as early as December 2007 on eliminating the cross ownership ban, as well as other changes to media ownership rules.

“The results of this poll should come as no surprise to the FCC, since thousands have vocalized their opposition to weaker media ownership rules at public hearings held recently. The FCC should listen to the public and reject rule changes that would concentrate ownership even further,” said Beth McConnell, Executive Director of the Media and Democracy Coalition.

Read the poll results here.

The major findings of the poll include:

• Seventy percent of poll respondents describe media consolidation as a problem and 42 percent of Americans describe it as a major problem. Democrats, independents and Republicans all consider ownership consolidation to be a problem in nearly equal proportions; seventy-one percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents and 69 percent of Republicans believe increasing ownership consolidation is a problem.

• By a considerable margin of 57 percent to 30 percent, the public favors laws that make it illegal for a corporation to own both a newspaper and a television station in the same city or media market. Similar levels of support exist among political liberals (59 percent favor), moderates (58 percent favor), and conservatives (56 percent favor). Likewise, the poll finds support among both older and younger Americans (58 and 55 percent, respectively), white Americans and people of color (59 and 50 percent), and union and non-union households (59 and 56 percent).

• The concern about ownership consolidation and cross-ownership of local news outlets is further informed by the public’s preference for local news sources which are threatened by the concentration of ownership by a few, very large multi-national conglomerates. Americans report that they are more likely to watch local television news on a daily basis (61 percent daily) than national television news broadcasts (44 percent daily) or cable television news (37 percent daily). Newspapers share a similar dynamic: thirty- five percent of the public say they read their local daily newspaper every day compared to 5 percent who read a national newspaper on a daily basis. When it comes to local news, the same patterns emerge, with television dominating followed by local radio news, daily newspapers and the Internet.

• The consolidation of ownership also threatens to introduce more bias into broadcasts that the public already views as tainted by partiality. One third of Americans (34 percent) already believe there is a “great deal” of bias in the news coverage they watch, and nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the public consider there to be a “great deal” or a “fair amount of bias.” Revealingly, by a 56 to 30 percent margin, the public believes there is more bias in “national newspapers and broadcasts” than in “local newspapers and news broadcast.” Consolidation of ownership threatens the autonomy of the local outlets that the public prefers and relies on and eliminates the diversity of voices in the news media that prevents imbalance in news coverage.

“The poll confirms that no matter what your race, gender or ethnicity, bias in the media is a public concern. It also reflects the importance that people give to their local news. These valid and important issues must be addressed along with the lack of minority ownership before we move on to any further media consolidation," said Inez Gonzalez, Director of Media Policy for the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a member of the Media and Democracy Coalition.

“The quality of our country's media is not a partisan issue. This poll is proof that Americans of all political stripes are concerned about increasing media consolidation, which limits consumer choice in local markets. This is particularly true regarding cross-ownership. An overwhelming majority is opposed to one company owning both newspapers and television stations in the localities where citizen voices should matter the most," commented Joel Kelsey, Grassroots Coordinator for Consumers Union, a member of the Media and Democracy Coalition.

“This poll provides hard data to support the public action we have seen around the country. It shows that the people in this country concerned about media concentration are not part of a small percentage of Americans, but in fact represent a mainstream view,” said Cheryl Leanza, Managing Director of the United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc., also a member of the Media and Democracy Coalition.

The Media and Democracy Coalition is a collaboration of more than two dozen organizations united to amplify the voices of the public in debates over media and telecommunications policies. The Coalition commissioned the poll, which was designed and administered by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and conducted by professional interviewers. The random digit dial telephone survey fielded August 26-September 3, 2007 and reached a nationally-representative sample of 1,000 adults over the age of 18 with oversamples of 200 African Americans and 200 Hispanic respondents.

For more information or to download a copy of the survey results, visit www.media-democracy.net

Reclaim the Media is a co-founder and steering committee member of the Media and Democracy Coalition.

article originally published at http://www.media-democracy.net.

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