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U.S. Newspaper- Television cross-ownership

The essay addresses the newspaper-television cross-ownership ban introduced in 1975. The essay starts with an introduction that contains the thesis statement. This is followed by the history of the ban up to its present condition. The essay also explains the points that the proponents of the ban have raised including its positive impacts on the newspaper industry and democracy. The points raised by the opponents of the ban are discussed along with the negative impacts on the newspaper industry.

The recommendations by the author are then discussed and finally the conclusion sums up the essay. Introduction In May 2008, the US senate voted without any debate to make the Federal Communications Commission’s bill that sought to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership rules (Eggerton, 2008). The issue on whether to continue with the current FCC’s ban on the cross-ownership of newspaper and broadcast media has generated more heat than light with both the proponents and opponents of the law raising different points either for or against the law.

This essay explains why the ban on the Newspaper- Television cross ownership should be continued to be upheld in the US. History of the Newspaper-Television Ban The newspaper-television cross ownership ban rule was adopted in 1975 by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) with the aim of prohibiting a broadcast, a newspaper or a radio station from being co-owned by the same individual or identity if at all located in the same market (Newspaper Association of America, 2009).

When the rule was introduced, it prohibited any future broadcast or newspaper combination as well as requiring such combinations in the concentrated markets that time to comply with the rules within a period of five years. This rule has been in place despite continued findings that it should be revised or reviewed. The FCC later adopted rules on the media ownership relaxing the ban on the cross ownership of newspaper and broadcast and instead general limits on the ownership of the cross ownership of the media were adopted (Goldfarb, 2006).

In the year 2003, the FCC, replaced these rules with a single rule. The rule proposed that in the markets where there are less than three television stations, cross ownership is not allowed among radio, television and newspaper (Goldfarb, 2006). On the other hand, in the markets where there are four to eight television stations, combinations are limited as follows; one daily newspaper, one television and half of the radio ownership as provided by the market rule, for example if the radio limit is eight, that company can only be allowed to own four.

The first option is; a daily newspaper, radio ownership of up to the radio ownership of that market, but no television stations is allowed for such a company. The other option for the companies would be; two television stations, if allowed by the local television multiple ownership rules, as many radio stations as possible as provided for by Local Radio Multiple Ownership rule. Nevertheless in such a situation, no ownership of the newspapers is allowed (Goldfarb, 2006).

The FCC proposed the elimination of the ban on cross ownership of the newspaper-broadcasts as well as that of television-radio cross ownership in markets with either nine or more television stations (Goldfarb, 2006). The FCC stated that television radio ownership or prohibition of newspaper- broadcast ownership could be justified in large markets since there is abundance in the sources from where the citizens get information such as news. The commission also found out that the former rule never promoted competition since television, newspapers and radios compete from different economic markets.

Another discovery that was made by the commission is that if newspaper publishers participated greatly in the radio and television business, the quantity and the quality of the news to the public would improve (Goldfarb, 2006). In general, FCC replaced the old rules with the limits that were intended to protect diversity in viewpoints making sure that no single company can inordinate or control media outlets shares in any single local market (Goldfarb, 2006). In 2004, the media ownership rules were remanded back by The Third Circuit to the FCC.

The FCC’s conclusions were that broadcast stations owned by a newspaper company produce better quality and quantity of local news (Newspaper Association of America, 2009). The decision by the FCC was however overturned by the Court on the bases that it had “not sufficiently justified its particular chosen numerical limits for local television ownership, local radio ownership or cross-ownership of media within local markets” (Newspaper Association of America, 2009). The reason why the ban rule was put in place was to restrict a single corporate entity from being a very powerful single voice in any community.

The rule thus sought to maximize diversity under the marketplace – dictated conditions. However it should be noted that the rule does not restrict the newspaper or broadcast station co-owning as long as it is in another market. This is the reason why the large newspaper companies such as Washington Post and New York Times have broadcast stations in different localities away from their cities of operation (Gomery, 2002). A diversity index was developed by the FCC to measure the key media outlets’ availability and concluded the following.

One, in the markets with only three or lesser television stations, the key outlets are limited meaning that if cross ownership of newspapers, televisions and radio is allowed, the diversity viewpoint would be harmed (Goldfarb, 2006). On the other hand, markets with four to eight television stations are less concentrated and thus limited combinations of certain media outlets can be allowed without harming the diversity viewpoint. However, if certain combinations are allowed, they would limit diversity and thus they should not be allowed (Goldfarb, 2006).

In the markets with largest tier, that is nine and more television stations, it was concluded that this large number of media outlets in addition to the local ownership limits are sufficient in the protection of the viewpoint diversity. Proponents of the retaining of the ban Those who support the FCC’s ban on the newspaper-television cross ownership argue that it limits the number of the independent voices that are in the community, especially in small markets that have small number of voices (Goldfarb, 2006). James Gattsuso stated in his book in 2003,

“Rather than media monopolies, consumers face a bewildering and unprecedented amount of choice,” Instead, the real danger to Americans is that outdated and unnecessary FCC restrictions will limit improvements in media markets and technologies, limiting the benefits that they can provide Gomery, D. (2002). ” By this they raise the point that if only few individuals or entities are allowed to control the media in the community, it is likely that they would be giving news that is of similar view point or that is biased.

Because of their financial capability, upcoming and smaller companies may not be in a position to compete with them and definitely mean that they will dominate the media market. The companies may invest in the newspaper, television and even in the radio ownership meaning that the citizens in that community will only be limited to only those companies’ selected content and viewpoint. The situation will be made worse if the dominating companies are biased in their news relaying for example being politically affiliated to a certain party or candidate.

However, the presence of several media companies (separately owned) operating with different newspaper publications, televisions and radios, the public is in a better position to choose from which media they will consume the news from and in the process they have variety and varied viewpoints or opinions on any issue. The other argument that is raised by the proponents of the ban is that the entities may merge and because they face less competition in the service of the local news and also with pretext of cost savings, they will decrease the total amount of resources that are used in the production of the local news for the community.

This will be a blow to the local news consumers as they stand of getting poor quality information (news), or that restricted to particular domains, for example on local and little national or international news (Goldfarb, 2006). Cross ownership of either television-radio or newspaper-broadcast gives the merged company an upper hand in the advertisement market as compared to competitors that are non-cross owned (Goldfarb, 2006). This is because they have better chances of getting clients through both the television and the newspaper.

The elimination of the ban may cause monopolies and give too much power to companies controlling all the localities radio, television and print media. Critics argue that it will also allow newspaper businesses to be absorbed into the television industries, which will result into negative quality of the print journalism, with the communities getting less news from the companies (DirectActions, 2002). An important fact that was stated by the courts after throwing out the FCC recommendations was that if the ban was to be eliminated, it would have been a setback to democracy.

The court argued that for democracy to be accomplished, “access to independent and diverse media outlets is essential” (Napoli, 2007). This is factual since if only a handful and powerful media companies are allowed to operate, the diversity viewpoint will be reduced meaning that people will only get what the companies feel they should get. This is a real blow to democracy. Opponents of the ban Companies that have been known to be instrumental in campaigning for elimination of this ban include Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp which has two television stations plus a newspaper in New York City which is a violation of the law.

Other known companies that are known to violate the laws are Tribute Corporation. (Napoli, 2007). The former Chairman of FCC stated that the ban was unfair to the newspaper publishers basing the argument on other communications ownership rules that make it possible for businesses to own up to two television stations in addition to as many as six radio stations (Byrne, 2006). An argument that is raised by those who are against the 1975 law is that if the newspaper publishers participated greatly in the radio and television business, the quantity and the quality of the news to the public would improve (Goldfarb, 2006).

This is because a company that operates both the print and broadcast media will have an exposed field from when it can obtain its news. The equipment that is used in obtaining the broadcast news are also sophisticated and reliable meaning that there will not be misquotation mistakes which are common in the print journalism. Other opponents state that if the law is eliminated, the companies will cut costs by consolidating the television stations and newspaper operations (Byrne, 2006). This will be advantageous to media companies as operating efficiencies will improve.

News that has been collected from reporters could be used in both the television and newspaper production. Recommendation The ban on newspaper-television cross ownership should not be lifted for one main reason. This is the issue of ensuring democracy is practiced in the media industry. The issue should not be judged based on the market values but according to the democratic values. Though the companies should be allowed to cross own the newspaper and televisions stations, it should not be at the same locality.

The ability of the Americans to learn and then debate international, national, state and local issues will depend on the citizens’ exposure to discussion and debate news that however should not be controlled by a few corporations or even a monopoly in a particular city. When many parts of the community have the chance to contribute to the public debate, democracy is strengthened (Napoli, 2007). Conclusion It is evident that many large media companies may want to see the law banning the cross ownership of the newspaper and television station in the same locality invalidated.

However from the points that the proponents of the rule raise, it is clear that for the sake of protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens and ensuring democracy, the ban should continue to be imposed. When corporations are allowed to have monopoly over the area’s news production, the quality of what the public get in terms of the news may be compromised.

References

Byrne, J. (2006). FCC plans relaxation of media ownership rules, watchdogs say. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from http://www. rawstory. com/news/2006/FCC_plans_relaxation_of_media_ownership_053

DirectActions. 2002. FCC moves to lift cross-ownership ban. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from, http://www. directactions. net/stopthefcc. htm Eggerton, J. (2008). Senate to block FCC’s cross-ownership rule change. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from http://www. broadcastingcable. com/article/113737Senate_Votes_to_Block_FCC_s_Cro Goldfarb, B. CRS report for congress. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from http://fpc. state. gov/documents/organization/82491. pdf Gomery, D. (2002). Newspaper- Broadcast cross-ownership rule: An analysis. Washington: Economic Policy Institute.

Retrieved March 10, 2009, from http://www. epinet. org/page/-/old/books/crossownership. pdf? PHPSESSID=b2f74297dc Napoli. (2007). Local media diversity matters. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from http://www. americanprogress. org/issues/2007/01/media_diversity. html Newspaper Association of America. (2009). History of the media cross ownership ban. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from http://www. naa. org/Resources/Articles/Public-Policy-History-of-the-Media-Cross- Ownership-Ban/Public-Policy-History-of-the-Media-Cross-Ownership-Ban. aspx

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