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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Local news in jeopardy, panel warns FCC chief

From Times Herald-Record by Paul Brooks

Hyde Park — Local news is hard to find in the Hudson Valley and likely to fade even more unless federal officials curb the trend toward media consolidation.
About 250 people sent that message loud and clear last night. The call fell on the friendly ears of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who will vote sometime soon on possible changes in the Federal Communications Commission's regulations on media ownership. Copps held the hearing at the FDR Library at the invitation of Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley. The discussion panel included Hinchey's soon-to-be colleague and fellow Democrat, Rep.-elect John Hall, and Roberto Calderin, principal of the New Windsor Elementary School in the Newburgh School District. The media scene in the Hudson Valley is grim, organizers said. The big cities in the region have only one daily newspaper each. The weeklies are owned by either one big chain or a regional chain, for the most part. Most local radio stations don't cover local news on their own anymore, and local television news is equally hard to find, they said.

"Instead of investing in local reporting, large media companies are far more likely to make staff cuts ... and produce generic news content that is not connected to local communities," said William Hoynes, a professor at Vassar College. If approved, the new FCC regulations would allow ownership of TV, radio and newspapers in the same area by fewer and fewer corporations. "Ultimately, you allow them to control the ideas people hold," Hinchey said. "It is being done purposefully to corrupt the political debate." Copps said that public pressure can make a difference. "We can win this," he said. "I believe people want a new deal for their media. Let's go and get it for them."


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