WASHINGTON, D.C. ― At a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing to examine the state of the television and video marketplace, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) spoke about the need for broadcasters to prioritize local news and reporting of local interest, in the era of corporate media consolidation of broadcasters and video content.
“Support of local media means we need media in our communities reporting on local events and stories of local interest – not prepackaged stories that don’t reflect the community,” Udall said during the hearing.
“Now I understand the claim that the number of hours of news is increasing. But more is not always better,” Udall said. “One data point is illustrative: On May 6th of this year, the United Nations chartered panel of scientists released a critical report warning that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction because of destructive human activity, including climate change. And, on that same day, baby Archie was born to Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex. Guess which story got more air time on the three major broadcast stations nightly news?”
“The three stations spent nearly 18 minutes over the next week on baby Archie. And only one station, CBS, spent only 1 minute and 21 seconds on the U.N. report. That is a sad reflection on priorities,” said Udall.
“For sure, the media—especially the journalists–are up against tough challenges these days,” Udall continued. “The president continues his attacks on ‘fake news’ by which he means news that does not flatter him. Ownership of major media outlets is dwindling to record low numbers. All this has a chilling effect on a free and robust press. We must continue to have newsrooms that pursue investigations of public interest – free of worry that the FCC will pull their license for no good reason or that the Department of Justice will be pressured to rule against them.”
Udall also questioned witnesses about the spread of “doctored” video content online. “A couple of weeks ago, a blogger pushed out a doctored video to make it seem as though Speaker Pelosi was impaired. As so-called ‘deep fake’ technology becomes more sophisticated, we are threatened with foreign actors using it to stoke division within our country. What role should broadcasters and video providers play in monitoring this type of content and making sure unquestionably false – and bad faith – content is not further amplified?” asked Udall.
Craig Aaron, President and Chief Executive Officer of Free Press, said one great way to prevent fake content from being aired as news is to invest in local news rooms and local product.
Udall has long championed a reliable, independent news media in the wake of the increasing corporate consolidation of local broadcasting, and supported the free press as it has come under increased political attacks.