Tuesday, June 9, 2009

So Much For Competition Between TV Stations

Four New York television stations say they will begin pooling their video following a similar successful pooling operation in Philadelphia that has spread to other major markets across the nation.

It means that video from commonly covered events will be offered up to all the stations. So let's say, for example, Channel 5 covers a Mayor Mike Bloomberg news conference. Channel 2, which may not send a crew, will be able to use the video on its newscasts.

One could argue that, hey, they're only getting the same video that Channel 2 would have gotten anyway had they been there. There's nothing particularly exclusive about a mayoral news conference.

No, but consider this. Generally a reporter will tell the camera person what to record and what to skip. The reporter is making an editorial decision about what's newsworthy. Now, under the scenario just described, Channel 5 will be making editorial decisions for Channel 2. Perhaps the mayor will say something that a reporter at Channel 2 might find important. But the Channel 5 crew wasn't rolling on those comments. Now they go unreported.

Competition in the news business is important. I recognize that the TV stations, like other businesses, are struggling and are looking for ways to cut costs. This consortium is certainly good for the bottom line. But it's not necessarily so good for the consumers of news. Especially those who get the bulk of their information from television newscasts.

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