Former GOP operative Roger Ailes, the architect behind Fox News Channel's rightward tilt, is now remaking 35 local television stations -- reaching into nearly 40 percent of America’s homes -- in the image of his dominant cable network.
According to a recent report in Variety, Ailes plans to replace local news on News Corp. stations in dozens of domestic markets with the blinkered infotainment that’s become a hallmark of Fox News Channel.
This month, he replaced station programming with "Geraldo at Large," a show produced out of Fox News’ studios. Geraldo is just the beginning. Other Fox News Channel programs -- a lineup that includes Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity -- are waiting in the wings.
Media consolidation made Ailes’ takeover of local news possible. News Corp. owns both a Fox and a UPN affiliate in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- the country’s three biggest markets -- and other duopolies in six more of the top 20 markets, including Dallas, Minneapolis and Washington. (Click here for an interactive map of Fox-owned stations.)
As I write this, News Corp.'s lobbyists are schmoozing officials in Washington to further loosen regulations that prohibit one company from owning even more local news outlets. Instead, we need to break up the big media conglomerates and get higher quality news and information in return for free use of the public's airwaves.
In the coming months, the Federal Communications Commission — the agency charged with regulating the number of TV stations one corporation can own — will reconsider media ownership limits.
The loosening of ownership caps would unleash a new wave of media consolidation. At the local level, we could see a single firm own the majority of media — daily newspaper, TV and radio stations, cable TV systems.
Such concentration not only violates the premise of a competitive marketplace, it makes a mockery of the notion of a free press enshrined in the Constitution. The implications are clear: media conglomerates such as News Corp. would have the power to put their footprint on political discourse in a manner never seen before.
To stop the "Fox Effect" from invading more hometown news markets, Free Press has launched a national campaign, asking its more than 220,000 activists and others to tell Congress, News Corp. and local stations: “Don’t Fox with my local news.”