Local television news content within the United States is being soundly impacted in a way incomprehensible to the average viewer; a singularity that can be adequately summarized as a startling case of déjà vu.
The factors involved in perpetuating cases where identical abstracts of news information are repeated across multiple news platforms are tied in the hands of SSA (shared serviced agreements), JSA (joint sales agreement), LMA (local marketing/management agreement), and LNS (local news sharing agreements). Since the year 2000, there has been an increase where media markets have been entering into these various agreements with the purpose of lowering the costs involved in production, as well as competition to “enhance” news quality. At the same token, the effects of these shared agreements result in an amalgamation that is also reducing variety in new sources. Most media analysis outlets, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had yet to document and mediate the nature of shared agreements effects in detail. This was an undertaking then completed and complied by a University of Delaware study that took place during the summer of 2011.
In the study, randomly selected 83 television markets across America were coded for content analysis. In the study, thousands of news programs watched were coded on the basis of two central qualities: one reliant on whether or not the same news story appeared multiple times across stations within the same market, and production factors. Production factors included if whether or not the news story of choice shared the same anchor, the same reporter, the same script, and the same video footage. The final results were unsurprising—by far, media markets and stations within SSA/JSA/LMA/LNS agreements shared far more production factors and story appearances on more than one station compared to stations that were independent and not bound by an agreement. Although SSAs are found more often within small markets, recently, larger markets have also joined the fray. As for the impact SSAs have on local news? According to remarks from the Comments of Communications Workers of America and Media Council in Hawaii “shared service agreements like those in Duluth, Peoria, and Syracuse directly reduce the diversity of local ‘voices’ in a community by replacing independent newscasts with a rebroadcast or simulcast of another station’s news…with fewer reporters and camera crews on the street the quality…and quantity of local news coverage is reduced.”
In response to research and growing concerns the FCC, according to the University of Delaware study have and are in the process of looking into media ownership laws and market effects to combat these growing concerns.
You may read further into the study completed on the nature of SSAs and local television coverage here.
Image Source NY Times