When CBS-affiliate WTVH-TV in Syracuse shut down their news operations and shifted it to my former employer, WSTM in 2009, I predicted news coverage in the Central New York market would suffer because of the lack of objective coverage.
Well, an FCC report published on Friday pretty much summed up my observations.
The report was the result of an 18-month push to explore the changes in traditional media in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission warns that local reporting is an important tool in holding government agencies, schools and businesses accountable. The report is partially intended to aid the FCC in the review of media ownership rules.
Among the report’s findings, “A shortage of reporting manifests itself in invisible ways: stories not written, scandals not exposed, government waste not discovered, health dangers not identified in time, local elections involving candidates about whom we know little,” .
Take last year’s November elections. Republican Ann Marie Beurkle narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei in the 25th Congressional district.
From the moment Beurkle took office, she has been “lock-step” with the current Republican leadership, without regard to the needs of the people she serves. Her town hall meetings has been nothing but a side-show, designed to repeat the “talking points” given to her by the GOP leadership.
Not only is Beurkle not qualified to hold office, she makes it very clear through her actions that the only reason for her success is due to the sheer ignorance of her constituents. But you wouldn’t know that because the Syracuse news media has been crippled by the lack of resources to get their job done.
In discussing the situation with my former work colleagues at last week’s union clambake, the corporate powers eliminated overtime for their employees at WSTM. Which means, if you worked 8 hours or are at your 40 hour weekly limit, workers who cover news stories are essentially on a time limit.
This, despite the fact that they were able to dish out bonuses of $2.6 million and $1.9 million dollars to their top level employees. Read Barrington Broadcasting’s 4th quarter statement for 2010 here!
Many corporate broadcast executives may tout the success of the so-called “shared-services agreements”, calling the arrangements “efficient to their business model”. But as I’ve predicted and confirmed by the FCC’s report, consolidation of news sources harms the general public.
It will be interesting to see if this report will result in the dissolving of the so-called “SSA’s”. Given te FCC’s poor track record, I think not!