Did regulatory changes cause a concentration of local TV station ownership?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
By Austin Tannenbaum

Following decades of deregulation measures, local TV station ownership has become increasingly concentrated, reducing the diversity of political viewpoints and the number of unique news stories on the air.

Formerly, FCC rules limited the national audience share a single owner could reach to 35%. In 2003, that ceiling was raised to 45%. According to Pew, in 2004, the top five companies “owned, operated or serviced 179 full-power stations... That number grew to 378 in 2014 and to 443 in 2016.”

In 2017, the FCC reinstated the “UHF discount,” which in effect lets local media companies double their TV station audience reach. A subsequent merger would have given Sinclair Broadcast Group an audience share reach of 72%, but the merger did not go through.

A pending Supreme Court case will determine whether the reinstated UHF discount and other Trump-era media ownership deregulations will stand.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.
Between 2020 and 2022, under close editorial supervision, Gigafact contracted a group of freelance writers and editors to test the concepts for fact briefs and provide inputs to our software development process. We call this effort Gigafact Lab. Over the course of these two years, Gigafact Lab writers published over 1500 fact briefs in response to claims they found online. Their important work forms the basis of Gigafact formats and editorial guidelines, and is available to the public on Gigafact.org. Readers should be aware that while there is still a lot of relevant information to be found, not all fact briefs produced by Gigafact Lab reflect Gigafact's current methods and standards for fact briefs. If you come across any that you feel are out of date and need to be looked at with fresh eyes, don't hesitate to contact us at support@gigafact.org.