FCC testimony on media ownership: Andrew Skotdal

My name is Andy Skotdal. I am a licensee of a single-directional AM radio station in Everett. I am one of five locally based station licensees left in Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties. Two of my local owner counterparts, James Sue and Chris Bennett, both own a newspaper and a couple of stations. One serves the Korean community and one serves the Central District. Both operations are extremely successful in delivering local news to the respected communities. I would argue that local news and diversity clearly benefit from these combinations. I also serve as the vice chairman of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters (WSAB). The WSAB strongly believes in competition and media diversity.

In Seattle, we believe that competition should include two newspapers, not a one-newspaper monopoly. Over 100 communities lost their second daily newspaper because it completely closed or merged in the last 13 years. Cross-ownership could have saved those papers and made local stations stronger. Media diversity in Dallas was not served when the Times Herald closed nor will media diversity be served in Seattle if the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is forced out without a chance of cross-ownership. The third circuit’s 2004 decision endorsed the fact that, commonly, newspaper and TV stations produce better local news and higher quality and a better quantity -- and 45 grandfathered TV-newspaper combinations prove this is true.

Most small cities in America have only one local news outlet. Many are lucky to have two competing news outlets. Seattle has more than 20. People want more local news. By focusing on ancient broadcast rules in the hope for more local news is like trying to stop all foreign car imports by focusing on England. The Washington State Association of Broadcasters believes there is common ground, and the broadcasters I know believe passionately in serving their communities well, including by adversary Clear Channel. I respectfully ask that the rhetoric and platitudes be toned down and that you both maintain an open mind to the potential public benefits of the changes as well. You can’t discuss local news in isolation without also recognizing the market changes that supported the news in the first place, and the WSAB looks forward to having that discussion. Thank you.

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