A survey of members of four communications unions found broad agreement that further media consolidation would be bad news for them and for the general public.
Eight out of 10 respondents to a phone poll commissioned by the unions said that the result would be lowered journalistic standards and less viewpoint diversity. Of the 400 participants (error rate of plus/minus 4.9%), 86% predicted that control of programming would be concentrated in fewer hands, with 79% predicting increased corporate bias in news coverage.
A majority said they had seen an increase in coverage of entertainment, "scandal" and weather at the expense of hard news.One in five said they had been laid off in the past five years, with a majority (53%) saying they worked for a company that had merged with another in that time.
There biggest concern for the industry today was that there was too much emphasis on the bottom line. One in four surveyed said they were freelance or daily hires, "reflecting the growing marginalization of jobs in the industry," the unions concluded.
The workers were drawn from the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET), American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA), Communications Workers of America, the Writers Guild of America East and The Newspaper Guild.
The study was scheduled to be unveiled Tuesday at a Capitol Hill press conference where those unions, joined by several legislators and FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, were pushing FCC Chairman Michael Powell to hold "full public hearings" on new ownership rules.
A Philadelphia appeals court last month told the FCC to either revamp or better justify its loosened ownership regulations, which it approved over Adelstein's and Copps' strong objections in June 2003. The rules were immediately challenged and never actually went into effect.
Copps has expressed his frustration with what he says has been Powell's inaction on calls for more hearings before the commission takes another crack at the rules.