FCC holds hearing on the impact of new media

May 21, 2010 7:15:14 PM PDT
The future of TV is under scrutiny by federal regulators in Washington. They were in the Bay Area on Friday, trying to assess how competition from the internet might require new rules.

Competition keeps heating up between TV and the Internet. Google is adding pressure with the creation of a new service that will wed content from both worlds.

The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates telecommunications, has been holding hearings to revise its rules as broadcasters face new challenges.

"They have traditionally depending on advertising revenue and much of that revenue has moved onto the internet at this point, so the broadcasters and newspapers are looking for new business models that will help them prosper in the future," FCC bureau chief William Lake said.

The proliferation of information sources means more competition and smaller slices of advertising dollars.

"As audiences fragment, that means that there will be smaller audiences that publishers and broadcasters can charge and fewer advertisers will be wanting to spend money on what is essentially an inefficient buy," news media analyst Alan Mutter said.

The public was invited to weigh in. Many expressed a preference for access to more voices over media profits.

"In fact, the FCC's mandate is to protect the public's interest and to provide for a variety and diversity and not be concerned about your bottom line," community activist Ruth Rberts said.

Michael McKaskle, a beekeeper, put it more succinctly.

"We need more voices to be heard, he said.

A panelist from I.TV, Which provides TV and movie listings for the iPhone, thinks quality and brand name value will determine which services proper or perish.

"It's going to be the quality of the content, the problem that it's solving. In other words, the quality of the information you're getting and the connection you feel to that," I.TV chief executive Brad Pelo said.

The FCC is also reviewing rules that bar common ownership of newspapers and TV stations in the same city.

Some see consolidation of media outlets as a salvation -- others, as an evil.

"I think most of these guys have decided, well, it's easier to consolidate, acquire more properties, we have more influence. It's a pretty good excuse," TV executive Ravi Kapur said.

"The government should not stand in the way of broadcasters who look for ways to have more efficient operations, so they can offer more news and public affairs programs to our communities," Elliott Troshinsky said.

Google's consolidation of TV and the web is accelerating the discussion.


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