Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My New Study: "Media Monopoly Myth"

The New Millennium Research Council released my newest study today, The Media Monopoly Myth: How New Competition is Expanding Our Sources of Information and Entertainment.

Consistent with my findings over the past 25 years, it provides new empirical data that undercuts the myth that U.S. media ownership is over concentrated today. The study finds that fears about media control have reached the level of Urban Legend, not based on fact. What my study found is that we are often looking at inappropriate “metrics” to prescribe what to do when it comes to media ownership. We’ve got rules that were designed for the world of the 1950s and 60s. And here we are in 2005 when the Internet and all things digital are making a mockery of our continued attempts to pound the square pegs of media ownership policy into the round holes of today’s media landscape.

I found that most fears about media control and program choices are just that, “fears." They are based on anecdotes, conjecture and social agendas. The facts simply do not make any kind of case that Americans have something to fear when it comes to current media ownership.

Current measures for media ownership do not take into account the massive shift over the last 10 years. Two-thirds of Americans are now using the Internet for a variety of purposes including listening to radio, streaming video and reading online news content from around the country and the world. The approach in the U.S. to regulating media ownership should not be fixed by the environment of 1980 or even 1995.

Drawing on my own research and incorporating that of others, among my findings:

  • Americans have more choices available to them when it comes to media content than ever before. Television viewers have more choice from more sources than at any time in the history of the medium.
  • Who owns the media does matter for content, but not always with the outcomes in the direction proclaimed in the common wisdom.
  • There is no support for the contention that media ownership by chains or conglomerates leads to any consistent pattern of lowered standards, content, or performance when compared with media owned by families or small companies
  • Publicly owned newspaper chains are less likely to have an ideological agenda they want to promote than those that are family controlled.
  • Television stations with cross-ownership—in which the parent company also owns a newspaper in the same market—tend to produce higher quality newscasts.
  • The largest television industry players control less of the market today than they did in the past. Contrary to the widespread perception that television is more concentrated than 30 or 20 or 10 years ago, by a number of critical measures, there is more competition. The market share of the three traditional television networks—CBS, ABC, and NBC—has declined substantially since 1980, while new networks from newer players have become increasingly competitive for viewer attention.

  • The report also addresses radio competition as well as the impact of the Internet on sources of information, news, entertainment and culture.

    The report was launched with a news conference with commentators Adam Thierer of The Progress & Freedom Foundation and Adam Clayton Powell III, at University of Southern California. An archived audio stream of the news conference is available at the NMRC home page.

    The New Millennium Research Council (NMRC) was created in 1999 to develop workable, real-world solutions to the issues and challenges confronting policy makers. Its work has focused primarily in the fields of telecommunications and technology.

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