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New Report Exposes the Damaging Effects of Duopolies on Children's Television

Sep 20, 2007

OAKLAND, CA—When media companies are allowed to own multiple television stations in a single market—known as duopolies—children suffer the consequences, according to new research released today by Children Now, a leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all children thrive. The research provides compelling evidence that, as media companies grow bigger through consolidation, the amount of programming provided for children decreases dramatically. This finding is especially important because the quantity of children’s educational programming is one of only a handful of ways that citizens can measure broadcasters’ efforts to serve the public interest, which they are required to do in exchange for free use of the publicly-owned airwaves.

Broadcasters have claimed that duopolies are necessary to “preserve and enhance” their ability to serve the public interest. The study, Big Media, Little Kids 2: Examining the Influence of Duopolies on Children’s Television Programming, finds quite the opposite is true when it comes to children’s television. For example:

Across markets, duopoly stations decreased both their total weekly hours of children’s programming and number of children’s series an average of four to five times more than did non-duopoly stations.
Duopoly stations made significantly greater reductions to their educational program offerings, cutting two and a half times more educational programming than did non-duopoly stations.

By 2006 there was no difference in the quantity of children’s program offerings on duopoly and non-duopoly stations. The one exception was the number of educational series offered, in which duopoly stations offered significantly fewer programs than did non-duopoly stations.

Children are not receiving the benefits of local programming, as only 1% of children’s programs in 1998 and 2006 were locally-produced. Seven of the eleven locally-produced children’s shows in the sample were from just one market: Chicago.

The study compares the quantity of children’s programming in eight different markets across the country in 1998, before the FCC allowed the formation of duopolies, to 2006, after duopolies were permitted in some markets. The television markets analyzed in the study are Atlanta, GA; Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL; El Paso, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Nashville, TN; Portland-Auburn, ME; and Spokane, WA.

“This study makes it very clear that when big media win, kids lose,” said Christy Glaubke, director of Children Now’s Children & the Media program and author of the study. “Broadcasters have an obligation to serve the public interest, and the needs of children must not be sacrificed for broadcasters’ financial gain. We hope the FCC will consider the effects of media consolidation on children as they make their ruling.”

The FCC is currently reviewing its media ownership rules and considering whether to relax those rules that restrict the creation of duopolies. In an effort to inform the FCC’s media ownership policies, this study is being released in anticipation of the FCC’s public hearing on media consolidation, to be held September 20 in Chicago.

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