In a Nov 14th Day to Day piece on a Federal Communications Commission proposal to relax rules on media consolidation, host Alex Chadwick passes on a claim by FCC chairman Kevin J Martin that is refuted by overwhelming evidence. Interviewing Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, a member of the Senate commerce committee, Chadwick asks, as if stating a fact, “but [Martin] says, he makes this argument, and he cites specific numbers that newspapers are in very serious trouble, circulation declines over the last years, the rules change will help preserve these really crucial editorial voices. Isn’t he correct in both those assertions?”
Huh? Aside from the lameness of challenging someone with "specific numbers," study after study -- at least one coming from the FCC itself -- says that media consolidation hurts diversity, quality, and localism. Dorgan thankfully sets him right, explaining that media consolidation is not in the public interest, that newspapers are still quite profitable, and “We’ve had galloping concentration in radio, television and newspapers. The last thing we need is additional concentration.”
Astonishingly, Chadwick does it again, repeating Martin’s assertion that to relax media rules in at least twenty of the nation’s major media markets which represent 120 million Americans is “kind of a middle ground.”
Chadwick also fails to mention something that would have served as useful context for the story: the last time the FCC proposed to relax media consolidation rules in 2003 it provoked the largest public comment response in the agency’s history: millions of people wrote in to the public comment period with a staggering 99 percent of them opposed to the move.
Maybe Chadwick was clinging to the tired creed of knock-kneed journalism: that stories must be “balanced” no matter how factually inaccurate one side may be. Instead of propping up the politically motivated leadership of the FCC, Chadwick and Day to Day would better serve listeners with thorough research, and stories that examine and challenge claims that have weak to non-existent factual evidence.