THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF TELEVISION NEWS AT A TIME OF DEREGULATION: A CASE STUDY OF PRACTITIONERS IN THREE MAJOR MARKETS.
Swift, Kevin Patrick
Beasley, Maurine H.
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Broadcast news has undergone monumental changes since 1980. Longstanding rules regarding ownership and practices began to be loosened at this time, forever changing the practice of local broadcast television news. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 stimulated groundbreaking changes as rules of ownership were significantly relaxed. The result was a buying frenzy of television stations by major corporations in some places where small group and local ownership once dominated. The way broadcast news operated was changed dramatically in the years following these changes in policy. The purpose of this research was to gain qualitative knowledge regarding the effects of changes in FCC deregulation policy on practitioners of local broadcast television news during a time of great technological change and audience fragmentation. I examined what effects took place as a result of expanded corporate ownership and policies during this time of an already shifting landscape. To complete this research, which was conducted from 2007 to 2009, broadcast news professionals who had been in the business a minimum of fifteen years were interviewed. I interviewed a total of ten news professionals in three separate large broadcast markets, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Baltimore, Maryland. What I found was that broadcasters felt they had been affected negatively by the changes and were unhappy about the state of the broadcast news business. Practitioners said they were doing more with less, supervising inexperienced help, struggling with unstable work routines and working in newsrooms where morale was at an all-time low. Many experienced reporters were being told to learn how to shoot and edit their own video or quit. The practitioners also described a split in philosophy with ownership. Negative changes, said many of the practitioners, were partially the result of expanded corporate ownership, which was allowed by deregulation. While deregulation did not dictate how news should be produced it was mentioned repeatedly as one of the factors that paved the way for a period of major change in the broadcast news landscape. Other factors, such as rapidly changing technology, internet expansion and an economic downturn were also mentioned among the many changes that practitioners said they had experienced. During the time of a shifting media landscape broadcast deregulation allowed expansion of media ownership which resulted in further changes that affected practitioners. This case study gave a voice to a sample of those practitioners and allowed them to explain the challenges it meant for them as professionals.