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Consumer Group Says Duopolies Lead to Less Kids Programming

Sep 20, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Children Now is rebutting broadcasters’ contention that media consolidation benefits communities.
In a report released today, the consumer group said its study of kids programming demonstrates that when media companies own two TV stations in a market, the amount of children’s programming decreases.
The report comes as the FCC considers rewriting media ownership rules. Some of the FCC’s studies of the impact of duopolies have drawn criticism from consumer groups.
Children Now said its information comes from a study of eight markets: Atlanta; Buffalo, N.Y.; Chicago; El Paso, Texas; Indianapolis; Nashville; Portland-Auburn, Maine; and Spokane, Wash. From 1998 to 2006, the group said, duopoly ownership changes decreased the total weekly hours of children’s programming and the number of children’s series in every market.
“There has been a dramatic decrease in children’s programming over the past eight years in every market in the study,” the report said, with the hours of kids shows broadcast by the stations broadcast down 55% and the number of different series off 37%.
The report also said after duopolies were completed, stations ran an hour less of kids programming and that the programs that did run often were episodes of the same programs seen elsewhere.
“Across all eight markets, stations on average are currently doing little more than the minimum three hours of education programming required by the [Federal Communications Commission],” said the study.
Children Now also said that while some non-duopoly stations also made cuts, in general the stations that entered into duopolies far more often cut back on the number of hours or number of different programs than did other stations.
The National Association of Broadcasters said in a statement: “Studies have shown that broadcast television duopolies have resulted in better public service and an increase in local news coverage after a struggling station is combined with a more fiscally secure entity. The fact is that TV stations teetering on bankruptcy do not have the financial resources necessary to provide the public service that is the hallmark of most local broadcasters.”
(12:25: Updated with NAB comment)

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