FCC Fields Media Ownership Questions At Stanford Workshop


The FCC got an earful on media ownership issues at a workshop at Stanford Friday.
There was a heavy emphasis by panelists on the role of new media as spur and partner and competitor to traditional media. There were also several shots taken from the public microphone at the proposed Comcast/NBCU deal.
Representatives from Hearst and Tribune stations (and newspapers) said they were trying to leverage as many new platforms as possible to get their local news and information to a public looking for it on their own timetables and platforms.
That was the problem for a number of members of the public who got a turn at the microphone after the panel. They argued that the vaunted proliferation of voices was coming from the same handful of media companies, companies that one critic called "stenographers for the powerful voices in Washington."
One of those Washington voices, moderator William Freedman, with the FCC's media bureau, also hit on the echo chamber theme. He pointed to a Pew study of Baltimore that found there were 53 different voices. While he said that sounded like diversity, he found "compelling" the studys finding, when it "dug deeper," that 95% of the stories on those different outlets either originated with the Baltimore Sun or from stories that had been on radio or TV.
Eddy Hartenstein, now publisher of Los AngelesTimes, assured Freedman that the vast majority of the Sun's stories were from its own reporting, and only a fewrepurposed from LA.
Rosemary Harold, an advisor to FCC commissioner Robert McDowell and one of the staffers there to mull the various viewpoints, asked whether the traditional gatekeeper role, which was the subtext behind some media ownership rules -- like crossownerhip restrictions -- was still operative in the digital age.
Hartenstein said he didn't think his news operation could be a kingmaker, adding that it is "literally the Wild West out there," with so many voices his company has to struggle to muster the labor and resources to do the job. "Journalasts don't do it for free, nor should they," he said.
At least three folks took aim at the Comcast/NBCU merger, including a couple of women who identified themselves as 'Raging Grannies' and one saying he had once worked for the FCC.