A new survey from the Radio Television Digital News Association reveals that we're getting more local TV news:
For the fourth year in a row, the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey found that the average television station set a new record for the amount of local news aired. Over those last four years, the average amount of weekday news has gone from 4:36 to 5:00 to 5:18 last year. This year, it's up another 12 minutes to five-and-a-half hours per weekday.
Of course, the distinction between quantity and quality matters a great deal. Local television news rarely distinguishes itself when it comes to, well, the "news."
More evidence of that–if any is necessary–comes in the form of this clip reel put together by Conan O'Brien's Conan show, which shows a large number of TV anchors reading from the same script about a story of immense public importance: a smartphone app for ice cream delivery:
As O'Brien comments, "I don't find that funny–I find it scary."
This would appear to be one more example of what Free Press and others were warning us about a few years back–fake news segments that are really just corporate PR planted in the middle of a "newscast."
The FCC should, in theory, do something about this manipulation of the news on the public airwaves. But the commission has been extremely slow to act. As James Rainey reported in the L.A. Times (3/30/11), two stations faced slap-on-the-wrist fines for airing commercials dressed up as news–four years after the offending broadcasts aired.