Local News Production Increases Following Mergers, Study Shows

(Image credit: WBNS)

CHANTILLY, Va.—As local news continues to try and compete against digital competitors, a new study provides support to the claim that allowing stations in a market to merge will increase their local news output.

Gray Television backed the BIA Advisory Services study that reviewed the number of hours of local news provided by Gray TV in 93 of its local TV markets in 2014 and 2020, comparing markets where Gray acquired another TV station to ones where it did not.

This study is based around the suggestion that many TV broadcasters have made in recent years for the FCC to eliminate or relax longstanding federal regulations that prohibit common ownership of more than one TV station in a local market, which broadcasters believe could promote greater local news production.

BIA found that in markets where Gray TV acquired a second TV station or an additional major network affiliation, Gray increased its weekly local news production far greater than in markets without any in-market consolidation.

Per BIA’s findings, in markets with a consolidation event, the average increase of weekly local news production was 7.5 hours, with the average weekly news output increasing 27.8%. In markets without consolidation, local news increased at 6.2 hours per week, an average increase of 17.5%.

Consolidation events had significant impact in mid-sized markets (DMAs 51-100) and small markets (101-120). In these markets with consolidation, local news output increased by 7.4 hours per week (27.9%); mid-size or small markets without a consolidation increased 5.2 hours per week (18.2%). This growth was even larger in markets ranked 151-210, where those with consolidation saw a weekly increase of 10.1 hours (37%), compared to 3.8 hours in these markets without a consolidation event.

Large markets saw significant gains in local news output regardless of a consolidation (12.8 additional hours per week).

According to the BIA study, in seven of Gray’s mid-sized and small markets, Gray has consolidated English-language and Spanish-language stations. In four of those markets, Gray shares the resources and equipment from its English-language station to provide news in Spanish for its Spanish-language station.

“Gray’s experience in 93 of the 210 television markets demonstrates that relaxation of the FCC’s ownership rules—especially in mid-size and small markets—is likely to lead to more efficient television combinations that will increase the hours of local news available to consumers and provide more of the positive social benefits associated with local television news,” BIA concluded.

The full BIA report is available online.