Global Media Reality Check

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MIT's Benjamin Compaine has an excellent piece in Foreign Policy rebutting claims that the media are getting more concentrated, that corporate bean counters are killing "good" journalism, that media coverage drives foreign policy, etc., etc., etc.

He even takes on the popular notion that regulating the media is the only way to safeguard that phoniest of reified abstractions, "the public interest." He writes in part:

…relaxing broadcast regulation may expand competition. When News Corp. put together a fourth network in the United States in 1986, the timing was not random. It followed two regulatory decisions: the Federal Communications Commission raised the limit on local licenses that a single firm could own from seven to twelve and waived a rule that kept TV networks from owning their programming. The first change allowed News Corp. to assemble a core of stations in larger markets that gave it a viable base audience, and the second sanctioned News Corp.'s purchase of 20th Century Fox, with its television production studio. Fox was thus able to launch the first successful alternative to the Big Three in 30 years. Its success also paved the way for three other large media players to initiate networks.

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  1. But what about ClearChannel Corp.? I’m going on memory here, but if it serves me well they run something over 60% of US radio stations now. Certainly here in the Cincinnati/Dayton area they own at least WEBN, WTUE, WOFX and at least one Country-based station I can’t recall at the moment. Judging from their local behavior, the pattern is to buy out competing stations that could threaten their ratings, then cut’n’paste that station to fit their own system.

    I’m not sure this is an advance, or not.

  2. RE: Clear Channel

    You can’t dominate business without sales, I think you are underestimating the position and power of the consumer. You can see unwillingness to compete or attempts at monopoly in business as a present day scourge or a future day death sentence; I choose the latter.

  3. Re: Journalism from concentrate…

    Heh. What would we do without our watered down liberal flavor news?

  4. Clear Channel has economies of scale to its advantage. It can make a lot more in advertising revenues by owning one station of every genre in every major market. They save a lot on programming costs as well. Every Clear Channel station follows a similar format, and they use the same promotions, same ads, etc.

    The real competition for Clear Channel will probably come not from other broadcast stations, but from Satellite radio in the future. Sure it’s expensive now, but cost will come down as more people use it.

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