Did The FCC Try To Bury A Report It Didn't Like?
from the we're-all-ears dept
With media ownership questions being asked again at the FCC, this week there was another controversy concerning whether the FCC really looks at these issues fairly. mmrtnt submitted a story that’s been making the rounds about how in his reconfirmation hearings, FCC chair Kevin Martin was asked about an FCC study from two years ago that supposedly made the case that local ownership of TV stations increased the amount of local news coverage. The controversy is that no one outside the FCC has ever seen this report, because someone within the FCC apparently ordered it to be destroyed (it’s worth noting, of course, that Martin was not FCC chair at the time this happened). The theory being spread, not surprisingly, is that these results were not what the FCC wanted to hear, and making that info public would harm their plans to roll back the limits on TV station ownership in a specific location. However, soon after we read that article, Matthew Lasar submitted his own take on the story to us, which notes that the actual study doesn’t necessarily support local ownership — and there’s data in there that suggests local ownership has its own problems. The “controversy” surrounds a section that notes local ownership leads to 5.5 minutes more of local news, than on TV stations that are nationally owned. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that this means local ownership is better, but that’s not necessarily the case. That increase in local news might not be all that useful to viewers. In fact, as Lasar notes, one explanation in the report is that local ownership usually means political issues of great financial importance to the station owners get more airtime — hardly a ringing endorsement for local ownership. Besides, what if television really isn’t the best way to get local news? There are lots of explanations, so the report itself may not be the smoking gun some people seem to think it is — but it still would be nice to find out why it was made to disappear.