From shining a light on corruption to preparing you for the big storm, local radio and TV stations are at the heart of our communities. Their journalists ensure the news you need is at your fingertips by taking their reporting from the airwaves to websites and social media.
But the overwhelming power of big tech gatekeepers is threatening Americans’ access to quality local journalism. The size of the platforms dwarf local TV and radio stations. Not only do these tech giants pose major threats to advertising revenue, but they are gatekeepers of online content, exerting power over what internet users access and how advertisers reach them.
“Despite the tremendous cost of bringing world-class news and journalism to local communities around the country, one of the greatest sources of personal pride for broadcasters is the simple but fundamental principle upon which local broadcasting is based – that television and radio stations serve the public interest by making all of their valuable content available to American viewers and listeners over the airwaves, completely free of charge,” says Graham Media Group President and CEO Emily Barr in her prepared remarks for tomorrow’s House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law hearing, Reviving Competition, Part 2: Saving the Free and Diverse Press.
“This free service does not exist in a vacuum. It has been made possible over many decades through the advertising revenues generated from businesses of all sizes, national and local. However, these revenues have experienced a free-fall in recent years, due almost exclusively to the rapid expansion of the dominant online platforms who have upended the advertising marketplace and, in some cases, devised anticompetitive practices to protect it.”
The business practices of the tech giants prevent local stations from recouping their investment in local journalism, as these platforms exert enormous influence over what online content is eligible to be monetized. Big Tech controls the share of revenue they retain and the amount passed on to the content providers, who ironically bear the costs of producing the quality journalism that benefits the platforms.
This takes ad dollars away from stations that would reinvest them in serving the community and diverts them to the tech giants.
Broadcast radio and television stations remain as the last bastion of local and investigative journalism in many communities. But without the financial support of ad revenue, local newsrooms may downsize significantly, robbing the community of its voice.
“This past year challenged us in myriad ways, but among the most painful for many Americans was the acute isolation they experienced as a result of the pandemic – detachment from their families, neighbors and communities,” said Barr. “When it was needed most, local television and radio stations provided the civic bond for the communities we serve, doing incredible work in the face of our own enormous challenges.”
Click here to learn more about preserving local journalism in the age of Big Tech.