Tuesday, December 11, 2012

U.S. National Television Media: Ownership Concentration Issue

As part of the U.S. Media Study, the Foundation for Democratic Advancement looked at media ownership concentration in the U.S. national newspaper, radio, and television sectors. The FDA found only one instance of major ownership issue in the national television sector. Using 2012 viewership data from the Pew Research Center's report, "2012 State of the News Media", NBC Nightly News, ABC World News, and CBS Evening News have 82.22 percent of the American prime time television news market. All other news networks, cable networks including CNN and Fox News, and public news networks have a combined 17.88 percent of that market.

Related to these market percentages and from the FDA's U.S. Media Study comprised of 7,924 data points, the U.S. national television sector was the least critical in content as compared to the U.S. national newspaper and radio sectors. Also, there is cross-ownership between the three media sectors, so the three large U.S. broadcast companies have even more influence over the American electorate. For example, CBS Corporation owns 29 television stations and CBS Radio and 130 radio stations.

The United States through anti-trust laws regulates ownership concentration strictly from the standpoint of uncompetitive practices. In contrast, Norway as an example directly regulates media ownership concentration from the percentage ownership by capping the percentage of national media ownership by a corporation and/or individual. In other democracies, France regulates political content and bans commercial political advertisements among other things during election periods, and Bolivia regulates the ownership spectrum of the broadcast and radio media sectors in terms of 1/3 licenses for the private sector, 1/3 licenses for the government sector, and 1/3 for the non-profit/indigneous sector.

Media ownership concentration is a democratic issue when a small minority of media owners control large portions of the media market, so that they are in a position to influence significantly the electorate and limit the electoral discourse. From the U.S. Media Report, the FDA has strong evidence that the U.S. national media coverage of the last 32 days of the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election favoured significantly Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, and coverage of third-party presidential candidates was practically non-existent.

Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director

Question for Readers:

Is the media's role during an election to influence the outcome of the election or to help fully inform the electorate of all their electoral choices?


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