Today the FCC officially announced it was beginning its review of media ownership rules. Held every four years, the review looks at what rules should be in place with regards to local media ownership (newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, etc).
The last review was held in 2006, but the media world has changed quite a bit since then. Media companies argue that because of competition from the Internet, they should be allowed to own more properties in the same market.
According to the May 25 notice of inquiry:
“Consumers of broadcast video content also have choices for video programming among hundreds of cable channels carried by multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), and on many Internet sites such as hulu.com, fancast.com, abc.com, fox.com, and available for download at Netflix.com and at iTunes,” said the FCC document. “Some of the Internet sites provide free content viewable with online commercial interruptions; some provide fee-only content; and others offer content only to their subscribers or members. Consumers of broadcast radio can choose also among over 100 audio channels carried by satellite radio, downloadable podcasts, audio streaming, and other audio entertainment available in cars, on mobile devices, and on computers. What is the impact of such changes on the economic viability of broadcasters, including specifically the viability of their local news and public affairs programming, in terms of the cost of production and resulting station revenue from such programming?”
Local newspapers and television stations used to dominate local coverage, but new media is changing all that. Still, there are legitimate concerns about how loosening media ownership rules could affect competition and diversity.
The real question is this: do online products like Hulu.com really deliver that much competition to local outlets?
And if they do offer substantive competition, is it enough to force the FCC to suggest changes to media ownership rules?
WebNewser will keep following this story as the hearings continue.