Newspaper remains in running to buy Fairbanks TV station

Posted: Thursday, December 05, 2002

FAIRBANKS - If federal regulators decide to allow companies to own television stations and newspapers in the same town, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner could end up with a local television outlet.

Local managers say consumers would gain access to more news if the two news-gathering organizations were combined. But a professor of journalism at the University of Alaska Fairbanks worries that just the opposite could occur.

Since 1992, the News-Miner has been affiliated with Media-News Group, the seventh-largest newspaper chain in the country.

KTVF, Channel 11, is owned by Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest broadcasting conglomerate. Clear Channel also owns four Fairbanks radio stations.

In 1999, the News-Miner signed an agreement with KTVF's previous owners giving the newspaper a seven-year option to buy KTVF.

That option survived KTVF's subsequent sale to Clear Channel.

The News-Miner could buy KTVF if the Federal Communications Commission lifts its 27-year-old prohibition on cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations serving the same market. The FCC is now taking comment on the cross-ownership rule nationwide.

Joy Morrison, head of the Journalism Department at UAF, is concerned about the effects of such conglomeration.

"My initial reaction is that this is an awful thing because we already have a lack of diversity of viewpoints in Fairbanks, in my opinion," she said.

KTVF general manager Bill Wright and News-Miner publisher Marilyn Romano say they don't have any specific plans to change the way the newspaper and station gather information if the merger occurs.

"I would expect we would continue to operate with as much diversity and variety as we could, just to give the viewer more," Wright said.

But Morrison says media conglomerates sometimes focus on reducing expenses by cutting jobs and stretching less news over more bases.

Diversity in news outlets creates "healthy competition" between reporters and lessens the likelihood that a large advertiser will sway decisions or coverage, she said.

KTVF's Wright said he shares that interest but questioned whether that justifies broad federal intervention.

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