May 30, 2012
In San Angelo, Texas, a city of 93,000, the separately owned CBS and NBC television stations compete for viewers but cooperate in gathering news — sharing office space, news video and even scripts for their anchors. As The New York Times reports, similar news sharing takes place in dozens of other U.S. cities, including in Honolulu, where the NBC and CBS stations broadcast the same morning show. A University of Delaware study last year found news-sharing arrangements in at least 83 of the nation’s 210 television markets, particularly in smaller markets.
Federal regulators are reportedly looking into these news-sharing agreements. But amid intense competition for advertising revenue, such arrangements are a “survival strategy” for weak stations, said Perry Sook, chairman of Nexstar, which owns the CBS station in San Angelo. Sharing between TV stations became more common during the recession, when struggling news operations reduced their staffs even while adding newscasts to sell more advertising.
Local television is still the main source of news for most Americans, and public interest groups have criticized the cutbacks that reduce the number of editorial voices in a given market. Said Craig Aaron, who heads Free Press, a nonprofit media-reform group, “Worst of all, maybe, is that we’ll never know what’s missing — what dirt isn’t being dug up, what questions aren’t asked, what stories are going uncovered.” — Greg Beaubien