PEJ: Newspaper links offer bright spot

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Cross-ownership with local newspapers frequently improves the quality of TV
stations' newscasts, but heavy concentration of ownership generally erodes news
quality, according to a study released Friday by the Project for Excellence in
Journalism.

A PEJ analysis of 23,000 stories produced by 172 TV stations over five years
found that higher-quality newscasts were produced by:

  • Small station groups holding three or fewer stations.
  • Network affiliates, rather than owned-and-operated stations.
  • Stations with parents that also own a newspaper in the same market.

"The question of media ownership is more complex than some advocates on both
sides of the deregulatory debate imagine," the PEJ said in a release announcing the
study's results.

The newscasts were judged according to criteria developed by 14 local TV news
pros including managers, reporters, anchors, producers and station-group heads.

The five-year study was adapted to address questions raised by the Federal Communications Commission's
review of media-ownership limits.

Included in the data: Stations owned by small companies were twice as likely
to receive "A" grades than either top-10 or top-25 station groups. Stations
owned by the biggest companies were more likely to newscasts judged "notably
bad," the PEJ said. In fact, the 10 largest owners were twice as likely as small
companies to produce "F" grade newscasts.

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