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NYT On Why Local News Often Looks (Exactly) the Same

Brian Stelter of the NY Times shines a light on the not so pretty picture of shared services agreements among stations, and co-managed stations in the same markets airing almost identical newscasts.

Perry Sook of Nexstar turns up on page one of the Times (speaking of page one, Stelter was one of the stars in the newspaper documentary film Page One), defending the arrangements among stations, and criticizing ownership rules.

Of course, this is nothing new to people who work in local television, though Stelter does mention that the FCC has vowed to take a closer look at these arrangements among station groups.

He writes:

The Federal Communications Commission does not know how many agreements exist between stations, making it impossible to judge their effects. But Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, indicated last week that the commission was beginning to study the issue. “It’s something we’re taking a close look at the F.C.C.” he said. He sounded especially curious about what he called behind-the-scenes cooperation between stations that collaboratively sell ads and negotiate contracts with distributors.  

Here’s an interesting angle to the story: a spokesperson for San Angelo, Texas, where Stelter looks closely at the local TV lineup, says the local government is going directly to residents through YouTube and its own cable channel–perhaps a result of having just one local TV reporter at City Hall events.

Says the spokesperson:

“What we try to do - what we’ve had to do, really - is get our message out through other means.”