October 19, 2006 – Media Story.
For October 19th ME & ATC
While Arizona continues to grow in population many rural residents are watching changes in their local radio and television options.
Mom and Pop operations all over the country have been bought out by major media corporations a trend with far-reaching implications.
As Arizona Public Radio's Therea Bierer reports.
Dale Hoskins has been teaching Radio and Television News Writing for nearly 30 years .The Northern Arizona University professor has seen a lot of changes in that time. most notably the Telecommunications Act of 1996
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The law erased limits on how many radio OR TV stations one company could own
Dr. Hoskins says the out-of-town owners can keep overhead down by airing the same material on stations around the country.
Local programming is not cheap. And it doesn't have the return on the dollar that national programming does either syndicated or network programming and news programming is the most expensive of the local programming. So, what you're going to see with the change of ownership also comes a change of perspectives.
About a decade ago many radio and TV outlets had local owners who often worked at the stations. Hoskins says that hands-on approach made for localized broadcasts with content that reflected the values of people in the community.
With the new telecommunications act there's not that public emphasis on serving the public interest from a programming standpoint. Therefore, stations have been able to cut back on the size of the news teams to basically have a skeleton news team of one or 2 people and then even cut back from there to virtually just news readers rather than reporters who are out covering the events, occurrances that are in those communities.
Hoskins says when there's a big news event like last summer's Woody Fire Phoenix Television stations end up providing the majority of news coverage.
One of those stations N-B-C Affiliate K-P-N-X is owned by Gannett the same company that has owned Flagstaff's Channel 2 K-N-A-Z since 19-97 and now they're trying to sell it.
Channel 12 General Manager John Misner says Gannett management is disappointed with the degree of local support for the Flagstaff station.
we've never been able to get the advertising support we think the station deserves. We've identified between 50 and 75 local businesses who don't buy advertising time on that television station. And without the support of the local business community the station cannot be viable with our current model.
Gannett recently eliminated weekend newscasts on K-N-A-Z after 2 news anchors moved out of state.
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plans are to continue producing local weekday newscasts while the station is on the market.
Misner says Flagstaff's Channel 2 news has decent ratings but most people watch N-B-C programming on his Phoenix station by cable or satellite.
which is why we think probably the best outcome for the station would be for perhaps a local group to purchase the station and then program the station very locally. Local news, local entertainment, perhaps high school sports, NAU Sports that have a real local appeal
There is no established selling price for K-N-A-Z. IT'S been on the market for about 10 months.
Several radio stations in northern Arizona may go on the auction block soon. Other stations recently changed ownership
Newspaper Reporter Mark Shaeffer spent the past dozen years in Flagstaff working for the Arizona Republic
The Arizona Republic .also owned by Gannett .moved Shaeffer to Phoenix recently as part of restructuring the news operation.
Al Cross is the director for the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. He's watched the consolidation of many media operations across the country and the subsequent decrease of local programming on radio and TV stations.
you're likely to see a trend continue as long as the corporate owners of these media outlets are under pressure from Wallstreet to make their profit margins and quarterly dividends. However, I think you will find more and more local newspapers and other media expanding their offerings into the online world and providing that kind of community gathering place that you really need for a healthy civic life.
THAT KIND OF ON-LINE CIVIC CONSERVATION APPEALS ESPECIALLY TO YOUNG PEOPLE. NAU'S DALE HOSKINS BELIEVES STRONG LOCAL PROGRAMMING MAY NOT BE AS IMPORTANT TO THE NEW GENERATION OF MEDIA CONSUMERS.
As long-time media consumers search out new places for civic conversation younger consumers may be content with changes in broadcasting. Dr. Hoskins says fewer people today are involved in their communities.
I'm not sure that the audiences that are growing up now have the concern or the connection to our local community that they once did and therefore there's not the demand for the local news or should I say the marketability of the local news.
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BUT EVEN IF THERE IS DEMAND FOR LOCAL NEWS, THE SUPPLY MIGHT NOT BE THERE TO MEET IT. AS RURAL RADIO AND TELEVISION STATIONS STRUGGLE TO BALANCE PUBLIC INTEREST WITH AN INCREASINGLY HOMOGENIZED MEDIA LANDSCAPE.
For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Theresa Bierer.