Friday, June 24, 2005

Wonder of the Market

Antonia Zerbisias links to an interesting speech by Dan Rather, in which he points out the obvious:
Increased competition and pressure to turn a profit has resulted in TV news giving more attention to stories like the “Runaway bride” from Georgia than substantive issues, ABC News Nightline anchor Ted Koppel lamented Wednesday at the Promax/BDA conference in New York....

Referring to the shrinking audience for news, Koppel said, “With the need to make money and a smaller piece of the pie, we have to keep appealing to as large an audience as possible.” He added, “Sadly, the ‘Runaway Bride’ brings in a larger audience than a one-hour documentary on Iraq ever could.”
This is one of the most direct problems with increasing media mergers. When large media companies (say, AOL+Time Warner) merge, they usually have to take on a lot of extra debt. This ends up giving the merged companies a higher debt load than the non-merged ones, meaning that a lot of "extras" get sacrificed to debt service. I don't know what the story with CBS is, but this is the natural outcome of the "convergence" fad that was all the rage a few years back, and the similar mania of the 1980s.

It also points to the value of having a substantial public, non-profit news media (cough cough CBC) that doesn't need to chase the bottom line. If you want to know why the BBC and CBC run circles around even the best of the American media, this is it.

No comments: