Is there a ‘better’ TV news?

Which is better? News programming produced by network-owned TV stations or independently owned affiliates? The Network Affiliated Stations Alliance and the NAB think the affiliates win. Their proof: awards. FCC chairman Michael Powell however thinks otherwise.

In an Oct. 20 letter to Sen. John McCain, (R-Arizona), the Senate Commerce Committee chairman, Powell, while defending the FCC’s new media ownership rules, suggested the better news shows are produced by network-owned stations. Last week, McCain got an earful from the other side.

In a Nov. 19 letter to McCain, NASA chairman Alan Frank and NAB president Eddie Fritts claimed that Powell’s assertion was based on a discredited agency staff study that failed to correct for market size in comparing network owned-and-operated stations with independently owned affiliates.

“The record demonstrates that affiliates outperform network O&Os in terms of news quality [awards] and provide a comparable quantity of local news,” the trade lobbyists argued in their letter. “Correcting for market size and using the awards selected by the staff study as a proxy for quality … independently owned affiliates outperform O&Os.

“The commission should explain why it refuses to address or even acknowledge the need to correct for market size in evaluating local news and why it continues to rely on and cite a staff study that has been discredited by parties on both sides of the issue,” said Frank and Fritts. “Until it does so, Congress should give no weight to the statement in the chairman’s Oct. 20 letter.

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