Does Bigger Media Equal Better Media?

Four New Studies Cast a Critical Eye on Media Ownership Consolidation

On October 23 at 1pm EST, the Benton Foundation and the Social Science Research Council will host a telephone press conference to announce the release of four independent academic studies of the impact of media consolidation in the U.S. The studies focus on two questions that are central to upcoming FCC deliberations about the regulation of media ownership:

  • How the concentration of media ownership affects media content, from local news reporting to radio music programming.
  • How minority groups have fared in an increasingly deregulated media environment, both as owners of media outlets and as historically-underserved audiences for news and other content.

The studies are intended to inform the FCC's reexamination of media ownership restrictions and have been filed with the FCC during the public comment period ending Monday, October 23.

Benton president and former FCC commissioner Gloria Tristani observes, "These studies make clear that there is no support for the contention that media consolidation correlates with better, more local or more diverse media content. To the contrary, the studies strongly suggest that ownership restrictions should be tightened, not relaxed."

The four studies examine key relationships between ownership, programming, and community impact, with a particular focus on:

  • The Radio Industry. Peter DiCola, of the University of Michigan and the Future of Music Coalition, examines how the concentration of radio station ownership affects the diversity of music programming.
  • Minority and Women-owned Media. Carolyn Byerly of Howard University takes a critical look at FCC data on minority and women-owned media.
  • Minority News Consumption. Carolyn Byerly, Jamila A. Cupid and Kehbuma Langmia examine minority perspectives on the media coverage of minority communities, drawing on 196 interviews with African-Americans, Africans, Latinos and Asians in the DC and Maryland area.
  • TV/Newspaper Cross-ownership & Public Affairs. Michael Yan of the University of Michigan analyzes the relationship between newspaper and television cross-ownership and the provision of local news and public affairs programming.

The telephone press conference will take place on October 23 at 1PM EST. The authors of the studies will briefly present their findings and be available for questions. For speaker bios see http://www.ssrc.org/programs/media/ownership/researcherbios.page

To participate, please call 888-694-4676 and provide the operator with the reference code for the event: 8013008. The studies will be available online by 10am EST on October 23 at http://www.ssrc.org/programs/media and http://www.benton.org . To arrange interviews with individual researchers after the press conference, please contact Rik Panganiban at 212-377-2700 x 644 or email [email protected]