A pair of Senators is asking the FCC to review the impact of multiple station ownership and management in a single market when it reviews its ownership rules, apparently prompted in part by the attention being paid to Raycom's shared services agreement in Honolulu.
Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman and long-time media consolidation critic John Kerry was joined by Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa in writing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski a letter on the subject, saying broadcasters had taken advantage of a "sympathetic FCC" to gain control of multiple stations.
"Our most immediate concern is with the number of cities hosting 'duopoly' broadcast stations," the letter said, adding that, "examples abound" of stations absorbing one another and merging their news operations, resulting in fewer local voices on the airwaves and reduced consumer choice.
They said examples of newscasts on competing stations produced by the same staffers and anchors extend from "Honolulu to Cedar Rapids to Baltimore."
Honolulu has gotten the most attention recently after Raycom struck a shared services agreement there to run three stations there. Raycom President Paul McTear called it a way to keep those stations viable.
But media activist groups complained to the FCC about the deal, and the commission last month asked for more information on the contracts.
"As the commission moves forward with its review of media ownership rules," they said, "we strongly urge you to examine the effect multiple station ownership within a local media market has on the public interest."
At a recent FCC workshop to help kick off the congressionally-mandated review of its media ownership rules, broadcasters argued that the FCC needed to allow more such combos, not fewer, so that broadcasters could move to a more multi-platform model. They argue this would help broadcasters gain the economies of scale in a marketplace with the twin threats of dwindling ad dollars and a deliver model being remade by the Internet.