Editorial: Fisher sale raises local-ownership concerns

Seattle Times - Editorial Staff

SPECULATION about Fisher Communications being put up for sale raises the disturbing prospect of losing the last local owner of commercial broadcast television in Seattle.

Fisher, the owner of ABC affiliate KOMO-TV and other outlets in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California, is apparently rethinking the role of media holdings in the future of the company.

Suddenly, a national debate about the hazards of TV and radio stations and newspapers falling under consolidated ownership hits close to home.

Just last month, Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., confronted the Federal Communications Commission over its stealth plans to relax long-standing rules about cross-ownership of broadcast outlets and newspapers.

“We cannot live in a vibrant democracy unless people get divergent sources of information and have the opportunity to have serious debate about the major issues of the day,” Sanders said.

Media concentration in the nation’s top markets is a threat to independent ownership and to opportunities for minorities and women, from the boardroom to the newsroom.

Cantwell is especially vigilant on the threats of consolidation, which she notes will “diminish the diversity of local media ownership and consequently the diversity of local news, viewpoints and opinions.”

The FCC has been told by the courts to look at the dismal levels of ownership by women and minorities, but the review keeps being pushed aside.

The commission might have slipped in a quick vote on weakening cross-ownership rules if Cantwell and other senators had not raised a fuss.

Enforce the rules that have served the public well for nearly four decades.

Do not exclude the public from these discussions.

Diverse ownership of the media, competitive journalism and a broad spectrum of opinion and analysis are vital for a robust democracy.