The FCC decided today to let companies own newspapers and TV stations in the same city in the nation’s 20 largest markets including San Francisco — a change long sought by MediaNews chief executive Dean Singleton.
Singleton — whose chain of newspapers includes the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and most of the other dailies in the Bay Area — has been pushing to own print and broadcast properties in the same market in order to combine newsrooms and save money by eliminating redundant jobs.
“You take the high cost of news gathering and spread it across multiple platforms and you get multiple revenue streams,” Singleton said in a 2006 interview with The Washington Post.
A 2003 FCC vote to relax cross-ownership rules was rejected by a federal appeals court. Today’s vote was aimed at getting around the court’s objections, the Denver Business Journal noted. Singleton told The Washington Post last year that he had several TV stations under purchase contract in 2003, but when the appeals court blocked the rules change then, he had to back out of the deals.
MediaNews only owns one TV station, a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska. Hearst Corp., owner of the Chronicle, owns about 80 percent of the stock in Hearst-Argyle Television, which has 26 stations including Sacramento’s NBC affiliate, KCRA Channel 3.
Commissioner Kyle Copps, a Democrat, (shown above in the foreground with fellow commissioner Kevin Martin, Republican, in the background) blasted the decision as being “terrible” for those who want local news.
- “In the final analysis, the real winners today are businesses that are in many cases quite healthy, and the real losers are going to be all of us who depend on the news media to learn what’s happening in our communities and to keep an eye on local government.”
On the other hand, the three Republican commissioners argued that with the Internet and cable TV, there are more news outlets today than ever before.
- “We cannot ignore the fact that the media marketplace is considerably different than it was when the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership (rule) was put in place more than 30 years ago,” said Kevin Martin, according to a Dow Jones report.
Under the change, if a newspaper acquires a TV station in the same city, the station can’t be one of the four largest in the market. The rule change also grants permanent waivers to media companies that already own TV stations and newspapers in the same city, such Tribune Co. in Chicago, Gannett in Phoenix and News Corp. in New York.
San Francisco’s only newspaper-television combination was the Chronicle and KRON-TV. But the families who owned both sold the newspaper in 2000 to Hearst and the TV station to Young Broadcasting Co. (Photo credit: Gerald Herbert, AP)