clap clap blog: we have moved

Monday, August 11, 2003
I went home to Central New York State this weekend, and while there I read in the local paper that one of the local stations, WUTR, has decided to stop broadcasting local news from the actual city it's based out of, Utica, and will instead be broadcasting local news from a city an hour to an hour and a half away from many viewers, Syracuse. This means that of the four networks that operate locally, only one will be carrying local news. Hopefully we can all see why this is a problem.

What's significant about this? Well, let's start with the fact that WUTR is owned by ClearChannel.

I've said this before, but I'll keep saying it: what people miss when they talk about media consolidation producing crappier radio stations and bad TV shows and lame cross-promoted movies is that this has a very real effect on our political life. We've already seen this with newspapers, and if my little hamlet is any bellwether, it's going to start happening with TV. Can we all agree that, whether or not market forces dictate it as a desire of a majority of residents, having one voice covering news is just not a good thing? (To say nothing of way decreased citizen access to media, but that's another subject entirely.) The former WUTR news manager made the excellent point in an editorial that it's true that local news might not be an entertaining or popular choice, but we've pretty well decided that having local media is a good thing, and that's why we have government regulate it; when the FCC decides that it's OK for station owners who eliminate local news to keep their licenses, that violates the public trust which created the agency in the first place. (The editorial in question is unlinkable, so I'll try and type it up tomorrow.)

ClearChannel is not just about music. Spectrum is not just about music. NewsCorp is not just about TV shows. The FCC is not just about greed. It's about politics, and it's about democracy. Why does ClearChannel give overwhelmingly to one political party? It doesn't matter which one--it matters that such a large share of our nation's discourse is being created from such a small pool of sources. That's what matters, and that's why shuttering WUTR's news department is a bad, bad sign.