Media consolidation refers to a trend in which a single company or corporation owns multiple media outlets in a given market (area of distribution or transmission). Common Cause reports that one company may own three TV stations, eight radio stations, a local newspaper and the cable system in a market. This trend has met with considerable resistance, but it does provide advantages as well as pitfalls.
One advantage to media consolidation is the ability to provide more diverse offerings to the consumer. In a May 2003 article appearing on the Heritage Foundation, James Gattuso -– a senior research fellow in regulatory policy –- reports that the ability to own multiple television stations, for example, allows the owners to provide programming for niche markets on the different stations. In essence, owners no longer need to try to appeal to the widest possible audience in a single media format. Rather, they can tailor programming to serve the needs of different segments of the viewing population. This limitation of scope goes hand-in-hand with another benefit: improved quality.
Media consolidation can raise quality levels of local programming. Media corporations often employ multiple media formats, such as TV, print and the internet to enhance their offerings. James Gattuso, in the same May 2003 article, offers NBC, MSNBC and msnbc.com as an example of this phenomenon. The use of multiple formats allows media companies to offer extensive additional information. A viewer can pursue a topic on the internet about which they saw a news report, such as new stock offering, so the TV programming does not need to spend extensive time covering it. This move to multiple formats does not end with TV. Print media take advantage of the internet as well. Newspapers such as the NY Times, Denver Post and USA Today maintain websites, as do major magazines such as Time and Newsweek.
Small operations that compete with large operations often suffer for or go under from a lack of resources. The demise of mom-and-pop grocery stores at the hands of chain supermarkets serves as an analogue to the likely fate of small media outlets. Small media operations often cannot afford to produce programming, hire the talent or the quality of technical staff to compete with larger media companies. Cameras, microphones, servers, computers and the necessary editing programs have significant costs more easily handled by a corporate entity than an individual owner. For some small media outlets, consolidation with a corporation means survival.