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Free Press Slams 'Covert Consolidation'

Free Press has launched an online campaign aimed at local TV news consolidation.

Its "Change the Channels' initiative focuses on identifying markets where TV stations have merged newsrooms, including those in Chicago, San Francisco and Syracuse.

Free Press, which has been a big opponent of media consolidation, has created an interactive online map to highlight eight communities, including in the markets above, where it says some of the "worst" examples of "covert consolidation" have occurred. Covert because combining newsroom operations is not a violation of Federal Communicatoins Commission ownership rules, though Free Press argues that shared service or local marketing agreements among stations in the same market are a way to circumvent the limits on local station ownership.

As part of the campaign, Free Press issued a compilation of case studies of "nearly 80 markets" and more than 200 stations where news on one station is also airing on another.

Free Press wants the FCC to actively investigate that practice.