As part of its review of media ownership rules, the FCC has released 12 studies that examine the current state of the media marketplace. The FCC’s Media Ownership Working Group (MOWG) commissioned the studies, conducted by both internal and outside experts.
The agency said the information would be used to create a factual database, as required by the courts, to support upcoming changes in media ownership rules.
Among the findings, as interpreted by the FCC:
Broadcast television's viewing share continued its decline over the last 11 years, dropping during the 1990-2001 period by 31 percent all-day and 33 percent in primetime over all households. The broadcast share of video advertising revenue dropped by only 21 percent. But, broadcast advertising revenue also rose every year since 1990 with the exception of 2001.
DBS and the expansion in cable availability and channel capacity have created an increasingly competitive environment for television broadcasting. This will lead to continuing audience fragmentation and further pressure on broadcast advertising revenue. The increasing competition for program production resources has led to an increase in production costs. The future profitability of the broadcast industry will depend on how it responds to competition and cost pressures, and on whether it can harness new technologies such as DTV and interactive services to its benefit.
The number of media outlets (television and radio stations, newspapers, cable systems, and DBS operators) available to consumers in 10 surveyed markets has increased by an average of 195 percent since 1960, and the number of independent owners of those outlets has increased by 139 percent.
Network O&Os produced an average of 23 percent more local news and public affairs programming than did network affiliates. Newspaper-owned affiliate stations outperformed other affiliates in all measures of news program quality and total output per week.
The FCC’s financial interest and syndication (“fin-syn”) rules on broadcast network television did not improve program diversity. In the program selection process, the broadcast networks are influenced to a significant extent by the financial incentives associated with the ownership of programming.
These studies are a critical first step in evaluating the FCC’s media ownership rules and policies,” said Paul Gallant, chairman of the MOWG. “The next step is public comment on these studies and the Commission’s recently launched Biennial Review of media ownership rules. Together, this empirical data will significantly advance our understanding of the key factual areas of media ownership policy.”