Report: Programming Still Varied


A report commissioned by the New Millennium Research Council said concerns about media consolidation are based on myths and programming choices for Americans have not lessened as media conglomerates have grown.

The report, issued Wednesday, represents the opinions of Massachusetts Institute of Technology media consultant Benjamin Compaine, author of several books on media issues. Compaine asserts that ownership caps are “horse and buggy” methods for regulating media companies and not reflective of the current marketplace.

Campaine also said policy-makers may be concentrating on the wrong issues when they look at the size of companies or the number of eyeballs tuned into local programming, rather than looking at the wider range of programming options available today.

Internet-based and other digital media will overwhelm traditional ownership and content issues, he added, since two-thirds of Americans now get video streaming and information online. He said he can find no substantiation for the oft-repeated assertion that five companies -- Viacom Inc., The Walt Disney Co., NBC Universal, Warner Bros. and News Corp. -- control 80% of broadcast and cable networks currently available, yet with that market share, viewership in December 2003 averaged 51% across all their owned networks, a substantial dip from the days in 1970s when there were only 3 major networks.

Media consolidation will be an issue as authorities vet the Time Warner Inc./Comcast Corp. purchase of Adelphia. Although a court ruling struck down system-ownership caps, Comcast executives have stated that the acquisition, and system swaps with Time Warner, will keep Comcast below what had formerly been a 30% market-share cap.