Media Diversity: Economics, Ownership, and the FCC

Media Diversity: Economics, Ownership, and the FCC

Media Diversity: Economics, Ownership, and the FCC

Media Diversity: Economics, Ownership, and the FCC

Synopsis

Media Diversity: Economics, Ownership, and the FCC provides a detailed analysis of the regulation of diversity and its impact on the structure and practices within the broadcast television industry. As deregulation is quickly changing the media landscape, this volume puts the changing structure of the industry into perspective through the use of an insider's point of view to examine how policy and programming get made. Author Mara Einstein blends her industry experience and academic expertise to examine diversity as a media policy, suggesting that it has been ineffective and is potentially outdated, as study after study has found diversity regulations to be wanting. In addition to reviewing diversity research on the impact of minority ownership, regulation of cable and DBS, duopolies, ownership of multiple networks, and cross ownership of media on program content, Einstein considers the financial interest and syndication rules as a case study, due to their profound effects on the structure of the television industry. She also poses questions from an economic perspective on why the FCC regulates structure rather than content. Through the presentation of her research results, she argues persuasively that the consolidation of the media industry does not affect the diversity of entertainment programming, a conclusion with broad ramifications for all media and for future research about media monopolies. This volume serves as a defining work in its examination of the intersection of regulation and economics with media content. It is appropriate as a supplemental text in courses on communication policy, broadcast economic and media management, broadcast programming, political economy of the mass media, and media criticism at the advanced and graduate level. It is also likely to interest broadcast professionals, media policymakers, communication lawyers, and academics. It is a must-read for all who are interested in the media monopoly debate.

Excerpt

Consolidation of the media industry has been the focus of scholars and regulators for decades. the prevailing wisdom is that the more concentrated the media industry, the less diverse the communications landscape. Intuitively, this seems to make sense. Fewer voices should mean fewer opinions; fewer opinions mean less diversity.

When you look at the data across a variety of media, however, that is just not the case. in study after study, scholars have determined that there is no proven causality between media ownership and programming content. This book adds to that body of knowledge by examining diversity within the television marketplace. It also takes scholarship further answering the question: If consolidation is not the culprit in affecting diversity, specifically television diversity, then what is?

I suggest television's reliance on advertising as its primary source of revenue is the reason we have so few program choices. This economic structure inherently puts limits on program content that far outweigh anything that occurs due to media consolidation. These limits include time length for program, a “lowest common denominator” mentality because advertising perforce requires that programmers generate large audiences, and finally, programming cannot be too controversial or denigrate consumer products or their producers because they are footing the bill.

My interest in researching diversity came about when I encountered the financial interest and syndication rules, or fin-syn, when I was doing television research in business school in the 1980s. These rules, which forbid the broadcast networks from owning the programming that appeared on their air, were established in 1970 and were the source of much controversy throughout the 1980s. When the rules were repealed in the 1990s, I was working at nbc and began to see the impact of the rules' repeal, both in the changing structure of the industry and in the changing make up of companies into vertically integrated corporations. I became interested in network favoritism toward their own programming—would the networks keep shows in which they had an equity stake on air longer, give them preference over nonowned programs, give them preferred slots on the prime time schedule? We now know all of . . .

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