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our bloated, yet disappearing, local media

The Times published an interesting piece this week about the decline of local TV news. The article, available here, summarized a practice that I was only vaguely aware of: TV stations sharing newsrooms & producing replica newscasts (but with different anchors). Obviously, it’s cheaper to produce a newscast if you don’t have to pay, you know, reporters — and who cares about quality? And, since we live in a socialist state, competition is something we frown upon…wait. Huh?

Anyways, this quote stood out to me:

DuJuan McCoy, the owner of KIDY, said he believed such arrangements were necessary in small markets. It can cost up to $1 million to run a TV news operation in a market the size of San Angelo’s. “It is very difficult, if not impossible, to generate enough revenue to justify the expense for a locally produced newscast,” he said.

Really? $1 million to run a local news broadcast for a town with less than 100k people? I’m positive that I could produce solid local TV news for half, or probably a quarter, of that. In this day and age, when media production has never been more accessible or affordable, this explanation simply isn’t a valid defense of debasing a public good: local news.

If your station can’t produce quality, unique local TV news, then why should it have a free broadcast license? Why should the government prevent competition from companies that would produce unique content?

Times change, technology progresses — but hidebound, bloated, entitled media companies shouldn’t be allowed to dodge their public service responsibilities. If they can’t produce local TV news in the 21st century, give somebody else a chance. Where’s Newton Minow when you need him? How can our local media be both bloated and disappearing? What kind of terrible combination is this?

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