Washington, DC — A new report by the University of Delaware's Center for Community Research and Service (PDF) provides a critical look at the impact of shared services and news sharing agreements on local media markets. The report will be filed today with the Federal Communications Commission to inform its review of media concentration and ownership in local markets.
Service agreements have resulted in a loss of diversity and localism at local news operations and have eliminated quality jobs, said Jim Joyce, president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA, which represents about 8,000 workers at local and national television operations.
Since 2000, a growing number of individual stations have entered into such agreements, with implications for diversity, competition and localism of local news and opinion. These are the fundamental principles the Federal Communications Commission follows in its regulation of the broadcast industry; this report is especially timely as the FCC is completing its 2010 Quadrennial Review of Broadcast Ownership Rules. To date, the studies commissioned by the FCC do not include a review of the impact of Local Marketing Agreements (LMA), Shared Services Agreements (SSA) or Joint Service Agreements (JSA) on local news broadcasts, Joyce said.
The report was partially commissioned by the Communications Workers of America.
Dr. Danilo Yanich, the report author, found that "the implementation of shared services and local management/marketing agreements had a profound effect on the local news broadcasts in the markets," resulting in the broadcast of "a sizable proportion of stories on a combination of their stations."
Combining resources through these agreements resulted in a significant number of stations in the same markets using the same anchors, reporters, scripts and graphics.
In Denver, for example, stations with service agreements shared the same script and graphics about two-thirds of the time.
In Peoria, Ill., consumers, despite having five local news stations, were viewing identical stories on several channels. The combination of newsrooms also resulted in job losses. In Peoria, 30 WHOI employers were laid off and 16 were transferred to the NBC affiliate.
In Syracuse, N.Y., as part of an agreement between two broadcasting corporations, 40 employees were laid off.
"Local television news still holds a pre-eminent position as a news source for the public," said Dr. Yanich. While the movement toward shared services agreements undoubtedly will continue, stations retain public interest responsibilities as well, he said, adding that this research provides additional critical information as the FCC moves forward on media ownership decisions.
Dr. Yanich is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware. He is available for interviews. Please contact Andrea Boyle Tippett, University of Delaware, firstname.lastname@example.org, 302-831-1421
For Release October 24, 2011