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Starks Cites Local News as a Pillar

Says it influences regulation and will play important public interest role for years to come

Geoffrey Starks at Media Institute online eventDespite the strain that digital native technology platforms have placed on their traditional business, local broadcast radio and TV will continue to play an important public interest role for years to come, said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

He spoke during a virtual luncheon sponsored by the Media Institute.

“Broadcasting has always been a steady and reliable resource to Americans,” he said, according to remarks provided by the commission. “And now more than ever, Americans still rely heavily on broadcast media to navigate the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

[Related: Sen. Cantwell Touts the Importance of Local Broadcast News]

Starks, one of the two current Democratic commissioners, quoted a recent study that found that broadcast TV was the most pervasive medium accessed during the pandemic, reaching 84% of Americans surveyed.

The study also found that local broadcast TV proved to be the most trusted news source with local TV news shows attracting 25 million nightly viewers.

The emphasis here should be on the word local, Starks said.

“Localism is one of the pillars that guides the FCC’s regulation of broadcasting, and now more than ever local TV stations must rise to the challenge of continuing to serve local audiences while at the same time navigating the evolving media landscape and managing the evolving needs of their diverse populations of consumers,” he said.

Starks quoted a recent study by BIA Advisory Services that found that the most trusted, highly consumed and most valued news source among all models is news produced by local broadcast stations.

The study also reveals the strain that technology platforms have placed on the traditional broadcast business model; TV and radio have steadily lost advertising revenue over the last several years.

When it comes to radio specifically, the pandemic has had a significant impact. For many years, disruptive technologies and applications like satellite radio and streaming services have attracted listeners away from broadcast radio. Starks noted that FCC latest figures show that there were 44 fewer licensed commercial FM stations and 34 fewer AMs a year after the coronavirus pandemic began.

Potential improvements may be in store with the upcoming planned auction this summer of four AM construction permits and 136 FM construction permits as part of Auction 109.

“In my view, the unique ability of radio to target specific audiences where they live and work gives broadcasters a competitive advantage,” he said. “I believe that local broadcast radio and TV will continue to play an important public interest role for years to come.”

The speech can be viewed at the Media Institute Communications Forum page.

At the virtual event, Starks also spoke about the importance of diversity in media, the future of media ownership, accessibility, localism and competition.