FCC Releases Five Studies On Media Ownership
June 15, 2011 at 1:25 PM (PT)
The FCC has released the first five of the studies commissioned to analyze the effect of ownership rules and concentration on the media industry. While some of the studies seemed to call for greater regulation of media ownership and more stringent caps, another concluded that ownership cannot be tied to civic and political engagement.
One of the studies, "Station Ownership and the Provision and Consumption of Radio News," conducted by the UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA's JOEL WALDFOGEL, concluded that there is "no evidence of a relationship between ownership concentration within news and the variety of commercial news stations available on the dial" but that "Markets with proportionally more commercial news stations in large ownership groups have fewer news stations and less news variety, relative to other markets their size."
WALDFOGEL also produced a study, "Radio Station Ownership Structure and the Provision of Programming to Minority Audiences: Evidence from 2005-2009." Noting that minority listeners have "starkly different preferences in radio programming" from non-minorities, WALDFOGEL found that, as in studies in the 1990's, "most minority-owned stations target minority listeners, but... most minority-targeted stations are not minority-owned."
Another study by GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY's MATTHEW HINDMAN decries the lack of local news on the Internet, measured by COMSCORE figures and percentage of usage. HINDMAN, despite the proliferation of "hyperlocal" sites and online-only publications, concludes that the Internet has not "significantly expanded the number of local news voices," basing that conclusion on audience size, dismissing the new outlets because they don't reach the audience threshold he has established. The study suggests that "Webâ€native news sites... (are not) straightforward substitutes for the product of a television station or a newspaper," and appears to support extending media cross-ownership bans to the Internet, saying, "Restrictions on media crossâ€ownership do not just matter in print and on the airwaves: they likely impact news diversity on the Web as well."
A USC study, "A Theoretical Analysis of the Impact of Local Market Structure on the Range of Viewpoints Supplied," alleges that media firms "bias" and "garble" information to benefit their own viewpoints, and that consumers punish those firms with smaller market share. Suggesting that "the number of independent voices is a concern when we consider the FCC’s diversity and localism goals," the study asserts that "in order to obtain diversity of viewpoint it is not sufficient to have medias with different viewpoint: competition among firms with the same viewpoint drives informational efficiency. Thus, informational concerns for diversity and localism may require ownership limits more stringent than would be justified by conventional anti-trust analysis alone."
The fifth study, by professors at UCLA and STANFORD, "How the Ownership Structure of Media Markets Affects Civic Engagement and Political Knowledge, 2006-2008." concluded that, "while there is a pattern to the civic and political engagement in media markets across the country we are unable to explain this pattern with market-ownership indicators like TV and radio voices, and multi- and cross-ownership."