The Associated Press and the FCC: Both Limiting News Choices

Back in April, I served on the panel here in Tampa Bay for an FCC public hearing. They were taking testimony on proposed changes to the ownership of television stations, radio stations, and newspapers. A lot of the comments, especially from the public, oppose changes arguing it would reduce competition and therefore reduce our choices for news.

Well, last week the FCC released TEN studies on media ownership. These studies included:

  1. How People Get News and Information
  2. Ownership Structure and Robustness of Media
  3. Television Station Ownership Structure and the Quantity and Quality of TV Programming
  4. News Operations
  5. Station Ownership and Programming in Radio
  6. The Effects of Cross-Ownership on the Local Content and Political Slant of Local Television News
  7. Minority and Female Ownership in Media Enterprises
  8. The Impact of the FCC’s TV Duopoly Rule Relaxation on Minority and Women Owned Broadcast Stations 1999-2006
  9. Vertical Integration and the Market for Broadcast and Cable Television Programming
  10. Review of the Radio Industry, 2007

Well, since the FCC released the studies, a cynical reviewer would say: all of these studies are going to show how making the proposed rule changes won’t really hurt news choices. Now, I haven’t read the studies – but I can say there is something being left out of this discussion.

The Associated Press.

It started in 1846 by the New York Sunto bring news of the Mexcian War to New York City, by pony express to Montgomery, Alabama; then by mail coach to Richmond, Virginia; finally by telegraph to New York. He offered to share his stories with other local newspapers, to help cover the cost of the service. The network expanded that year to Albany, Buffalo, Boston, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and more — allowing newspaper editors to get “breaking news” into their papers.

Consider this description from The Future of News (emphasis added):

Today’s papers are collaborators, not competitors. Through their membership in the AP, they share news with each other, and use precious column inches to reprint the same, single set of national stories — space that could be used to provide more choices of information. In fact, the reporting costs are so low when papers work through the not-for-profit AP that no one can make a profit by launching a paper with alternative information. Now you know why not a single, financially self-sustaining metropolitan daily newspaper has been founded in more than 60 years.

So if 10 news stations or 1000 news stations all get their news from the Associated Press, how will any act by the FCC have any real effect on our news “choices” anyway?

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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