For most of the twentieth century, AT&T held a monopoly over telephone service in the United States. National sentiment at the time could best be characterized by comedienne Lily Tomlin’s puckish character Ernestine, an employee of the “Phone Company,” who famously taunted audiences: “The next time you complain about your phone service, why don't you try using two cups with a string?
Major media companies don't often like to use the "M" word (monopoly) to describe their competition. After all, it might draw
attention to their own vast media holdings. But this week, Nexstar Broadcasting
Group, Inc. couldn't hold back, and flung the word against Granite Broadcasting
Corporation -- along with an antitrust lawsuit.
year for TV news. The
average television station is now airing an average of 5.18 hours of
local news – an increase of 18 minutes from last year – according
to an RTDNA/Hofstra University annual
let's not prematurely celebrate this increase in quantity without
first asking: Is anyone measuring the quality of this news coverage?
Do additional minutes on the news clock actually make viewers more
informed? Are TV stations using this added time to air important,
ground-breaking news stories?
This week the Washington Post's Cecilia Kang reported that the Obama Administration is feeling "caught in the middle" between consumer advocates — like Free Press — who oppose AT&T's takeover of T-Mobile, and labor unions
Free Press’ Change the Channels initiative shined an uncomfortable spotlight
on Newport TV’s business practices, the company responded with threats and demanded
that YouTube take down our video exposing it. In the week since, buzz has been
building around how Newport used a baseless copyright threat to try to silence
The Change the Channels campaign highlights covert consolidation going on in
over 80 communities involving 200 stations. It is worth looking into why
Newport reacted so strongly to being identified as a covert consolidator.
There are many reasons that the scandal that's engulfing Rupert Murdoch has riveted public attention over the last seven days. It's a story that features all of the classic elements: twists of fate, betrayal, deception, abuse of power, and, even, murder.
But beneath Murdoch's meltdown lies a bigger problem, and its one that's not confined to the United Kingdom. It plagues all consolidated news organizations that reach a certain size and stature, but especially News Corp: The problem of media that get too cozy with power.
Two weeks ago, Free Press launched Change the Channels, a new campaign to uncover and fight covert consolidation, a practice whereby TV stations outsource their local news operations to their competitors resulting in less local competition and diversity, and sometimes even duplicate newscasts. We dubbed this trend “covert consolidation” because the stations involved often use contractual agreements and backroom deals to get around the FCC’s media ownership laws. But the results can be just as bad as outright consolidation.
There’s a concept in the law of free speech known as “the Heckler’s Veto.” It’s the idea that if a speaker creates such a stir that he is silenced to avoid enraging the audience—perhaps to the point of violence—then the audience, and the most unhinged among them, gets to determine the limits of free speech.
In the United States, that sort of thing is generally frowned upon.