Locals Bring Consolidation Complaints to FCC

Feb 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission heard two sides of the media consolidation debate in its third media ownership hearing in Harrisburg, Penn., but its hopes for limiting comments to smaller market issues got sidestepped as residents of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore drove to the hearing to add their concerns about bigger market issues.

Overall, broadcasters including Bill Baldwin, executive VP of Hall Communications, touted their public interest activities, buttressed in some cases by praise from charities. Consumers questioned further consolidation, said radio consolidation had already gone too far and suggested the little advanced reporting on the hearing by local media was indicative of the effects of consolidation.

Several people also questioned whether media consolidation was affecting news content. “I am so sick of Anna Nicole Smith,” said Harold Johnson, a Philadelphia resident.

David Raskin, another Philadelphia resident, questioned whether consolidation was leading to too much attention to Britney Spears at the expense of local issues. “It takes up such a prominent part of our news media coverage, and that is not time devoted to civic discourse,” he said.

The hearing did draw some attention to issues that haven’t been much talked about.

Allison Hirsch of Williamsport, Penn., complained that “local” TV stations an hour away pay little attention to his town and “local” radio stations are owned by big media companies. He also expressed concern about the impact that cross ownership consolidation could have on local news.

Some hearing-impaired local residents complained that local TV stations interrupt programming with news bulletins that don’t have live closed captioning, leaving them wondering what was happening.

Broadcasters touted their work on behalf of charities including Habitat for Humanity and said they had an extensive commitment to public service.

(Editor: Horowitz)