Mary Rogus’ research on broadcast virtual duopolies coincides with major policy changes
Many millennials are unaware that broadcast news is still the preeminent source of news programming for Americans nationwide. Meanwhile, the public at large is largely unaware of the ways in which different stations share content with each other.
Professor Mary Rogus’ paper, "Diversity from Duopolies: An Exploratory Analysis of Broadcast News Content in Small Television Markets with Virtual Duopolies," seeks to shed light on the often uncovered phenomenon of shared service agreements in American Television markets.
"The FCC says you cant own more than one station under a different network [ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX]," Prof. Rogus said. "They like to provide a diversity of voices, and there is lots of competition for organizations to advertise, so what a lot of companies have done is theyve formed an agreement to operate the station without owning the license."
The FCC’s stated aim is to limit the control of individuals in broadcast news on both advertising and agenda setting in any given market.
Throughout the United States, different news teams operating in the same markets as each other have been able to present their broadcast packages on multiple stations, thus subverting the FCC’s ability to regulate ownership.
Until this past Spring.
"Two weeks after we presented our paper in April, the FCC issued a ruling that it was outlawing Joint Sales Agreements (JSAs)," Prof. Rogus said.
In light of this development, Rogus’ paper has taken on renewed relevance to those individuals in broadcast who are engaged in virtual duopolies, an often-parasitic relationship that entails the habitual sharing of content between two stations.
Rogus’ research focused on markets in which this practice has been common.
"We looked at Youngstown, we looked at Erie then we did a control market that doesnt have a virtual duopoly."
Her findings have major implications for the informed public that may potentially be adversely affected by this phenomenon, and for the employees of the given news agencies on which she conducted her research.
"Its an interesting dilemma you have as a researcher, she said of her academic obligations. You dont want to give the FCC more ammunition to put people out of work."