Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Denver TV Examined in New Report on Covert Newsroom Consolidation launches ‘Change the Channels’ to show how hundreds of TV stations are circumventing ownership limits and outsourcing local news

WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, launched “Change the Channels,” a new campaign focused on exposing the new face of media consolidation. Across the country, hundreds of TV stations have quietly merged newsrooms, circumventing the Federal Communications Commission’s media ownership limits at the expense of independent, local journalism.

“Change the Channels” features an interactive map highlighting each city impacted by covert consolidation and shared news operations. The map highlights eight communities that are home to some of the worst examples of covert consolidation, including Denver.

In late 2008, Denver's Fox affiliate, KDVR, took over operations of CW affiliate KWGN through a Shared Services Agreement. The stations now share studios, ad sales, operations and almost all of their on-air personalities. Morning show hosts Angie Austin and Tom Green are the only surviving KWGN personalities who do not also appear on KDVR.

When the two stations covertly consolidated, they eliminated 30 jobs, mostly from KWGN. Stories appearing on these ostensibly different newscasts are now eerily similar. Different anchors read identical scripts, and the stories use the same footage and the same reporters.

To view the interactive map click:

“With the majority of Americans getting their news from local broadcast TV, and the lion’s share of local online news originating from local TV stations, we cannot afford to let media companies use covert consolidation to squat on our public airwaves,” said Libby Reinish, program coordinator of Free Press, the group behind and Change the Channels. “The news and information needs of our communities cannot be met when photocopy news is allowed to stand in for real news in the public interest.”

In its recent report on the “Information Needs of Communities,” the Federal Communications Commission revealed that more than 20 percent of commercial TV stations broadcast no local news and of those that do, “Nearly one-third of TV stations say they are running news produced by another station.” Free Press has identified nearly 80 markets where these deals are in place, involving more than 200 stations.

In most cases, these partnerships are established through deals that circumvent the FCC’s media ownership limits, while producing exactly the sorts of results the FCC rules are meant to help avoid: a decrease in competition, diversity and localism.

Coinciding with the campaign launch, Free Press also released a new report providing case studies of covert consolidation deals.

To read the paper and case studies click here:

“The FCC should actively investigate these covert consolidation deals and develop standards and oversight mechanisms to protect and promote localism, diversity and competition in local TV, so that people can get the news and information they need,” said Reinish.