change the channels

Covert Consolidation

When you turn on the nightly news, you expect to find competing viewpoints and different perspectives from one station to the next. But in communities across the country, stations that were once fierce competitors have cut staff and merged their newsrooms, in many cases airing the same content on multiple stations in the same market. You can try to change the channel, but all you'll see is the exact same newscast.

This kind of covert consolidation isn’t supposed to happen. But media companies have exploited loopholes in the Federal Communications Commission’s ownership rules. Many broadcasters claim that as long as a company’s name isn’t on a broadcast license, it can control everything from news programming to office operations without being considered an “owner.” But these deals, called “Shared Service Agreements,” look and act just like any other media merger.

Covert consolidation is at work in more than 100 communities around the country. Free Press seeks to close the FCC’s loopholes and foster true competition in local media markets.

You can join with others in your community to demand change at the local level. Help uncover these dirty deals; submit video and information to our campaign; and take action to pressure local broadcasters. Together we’re building a case against covert consolidation that the FCC won’t be able to ignore.


  • Free Press Action Fund Written Testimony in Ownership Hearing

    On March 12, 2014, Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood testified about broadcasters' illegal use of outsourcing agreements in a hearing before the House of Representatives. These agreements enable companies to dodge the Federal Communications Commission's ownership rules.

    March 12, 2014
  • Cease to Resist: Update to October Report

    This is an updated version of our October study on broadcasters' use of outsourcing agreements to evade the Federal Communications Commission's ownership rules.

    March 12, 2014
  • Letter from Sen. Jay Rockefeller to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Media Ownership

    Sen. Jay Rockefeller sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler supporting media ownership limits and acknowledging concerns about broadcasters’ use of shell companies and other shady tactics to skirt those rules.

    November 26, 2013
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Blog Posts

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  • Comcast + Time Warner Cable = Disaster

    Comcast just announced that it’s buying Time Warner Cable. If approved, this outrageous deal would create a television and Internet colossus like no other. Tell the FCC and the DoJ to stop this merger.

  • Hey FCC, Come Visit Me!

    It’s been five years since the FCC left Washington, D.C., in an official capacity to hear how its policies affect real people. It’s time for the agency to schedule meetings in communities around the country to give people a real voice in the policymaking process.

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Press Releases

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News from Around the Web

  • Continue FCC Work to Limit Consolidation of TV News

    Seattle Times
    April 4, 2014

    The FCC should be commended for closing a loophole that many broadcasters have used to sidestep ownership limits and to run multiple stations in the same market.

  • Media Concentration: FCC Closes Local TV Station ‘Partnership’ Loopholes

    Stop the Cap!
    April 4, 2014

    When your local ABC station’s evening news ends up on a local FOX station, it is usually because the two have signed a joint agreement to let one station represent the other in making programming decisions and selling advertising. FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler believes this growing trend represents an end run around the agency’s rules limiting how much control a single major media company may have in any particular community. Wheeler joined two Democratic commissioners and voted to ban the practice.

  • FCC Puts Kibosh on New JSA Deals

    March 31, 2014

    The new rule bans new joint sales agreements in which one station sells 15 percent or more of the advertising time of another separately owned station in the same market. In addition, most existing JSAs will expire within two years unless the commission grants an exemption.

Learn More

  • Media Consolidation

    The more independent outlets a community has, the more different viewpoints will be presented on the air. But what happens when there’s no one left to compete?
  • Rupert Murdoch Scandal

    There are many reasons the scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has riveted public attention around the world. It's a story that features all of the classic elements: crimes, betrayal, abuse of power and even a cover-up.

  • Fake News

    How much of our local news is propaganda? Stations are slipping sponsored “video news releases” — promotional segments designed to look like objective news reports — into their regular programming. And increasingly they’re using these VNRs without identifying them as such. This deception is illegal under federal law and Federal Communications Commission rules.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good