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And then there were

Years ago, more than a decade and far from where I am now, I had a chat about the future of local television news with a guy in the business. He spun out a long-term scenario I’d not heard before and seldom have since:

Over time, he said, television stations will do what newspapers have done. They will conclude, for purposes of news at least, that the market cannot reasonably support a multiple of stations. So in markets where three or four stations with full news departments have been the norm, that will scale back. To three, two. Maybe eventually to one. It happened with newspapers. And as the many WB and UPN stations have shown, in this age of deregulation, nothing more than pride requires a television station to develop and air local news, or other programming, for that matter.

That speculation came to mind just now, in reading a comment on the Portland Media Insider site. The comment concerns a rumor (specifically noted as such, and if you’re interested you can read about it there) that one of the Portland televison stations will outsorce its news operaton.

The comment: “As sad as it sounds, I think the idea makes some sense. Each ratings book comes back with lower overall local news numbers than the year prior, and there aren’t any signs of that trend reversing. Eventually, four local news operations will be too many for the market’s demand… and that day is coming sooner than later.”

For whatever it’s worth, the comments on the site suggest that the “rumor” is at least being taken seriously, even without visible sourcing. Says something in itself.

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  1. LynnS LynnS January 4, 2006

    Hi Randy–

    FWIW, my site is Oregon Media Insiders; my predecessor was Portland Media Insider, which had to shut down when its anonymous proprietor left the business.

    The rumor is getting so much credence in part because it’s what TV newsies fear the most. They’re not stupid; they see this coming. Production staffs are being replaced with Ignite systems. WB and UPN stations all over the country aren’t even bothering with news. It’s on the horizon.

    As you note, “nothing more than pride” requires a news department and most owners have none. They usually don’t even live in the towns their stations are in.

    And that includes KOIN’s new owners. No one knows what they’re going to do. We can look at their track record, sniff the prevailing winds and make our guesses. From those clues alone, I don’t think it’s going to be good news for KOIN staffers. I hope I’m wrong, I would love to be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

  2. Randy Stapilus Randy Stapilus Post author | January 4, 2006

    Sorry about the name confusion: I’d been reading your predecessor’s site long enough that the name stuck. Will try to be more careful next time.

    Thanks for the comments back. I’ve been wndering for years when my friend’s long-ago comments might come to fruition, and it’s beginning to look as if the time is approaching.

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