We continue to find that Democrats trust most TV news sources other than Fox, while Republicans don’t trust anything except Fox. News preferences are very polarizing along party lines.
Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, in a press release on a new poll released on American trust in its broadcast news stations. Fox News’ Credibility Declines (PDF).
The News: Americans don’t trust broadcast news sources. Matter of fact, more people distrust NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Comedy Central than trust them.
However, Fox News is the news org that Americans are most skeptical about. According to the PPP poll, 46% of voters distrust it while 41% trust it.
The only news org that a majority does trust? PBS, with 52% of voters saying they trust it and 29% saying they don’t.
Media groups may soon become casualties in the ‘platform wars’ or run over on the spectrum superhighways unless they are careful. That’s the gist of a series of reports from research firms, industry analysts AND the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom.
The ‘platform wars’ phrase comes from a report by the Forrester research group which says – get this – Microsoft is “winning the battle” for TV supremacy. The ‘spectrum superhighways’ phrase comes from the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. A similar report from Britain’s House of Lords (seriously, the House of Lords) Select Committee on Communications goes even farther. It calls for television to be delivered completely on the Internet. “This may be a more sensible arrangement as spectrum is perfectly suited to mobile applications,” the report says. Interestingly, or oddly, depending on your point of view, this is even though the report acknowledges that one out of every six adults in the UK have never been online. The numbers are similar in the US.
Humorously, or oddly, again depending on your point of view, the US report says that while, yes, it’s true that the federal government uses lots of spectrum, “clearing just one 95MHz band… would take 10 years, cost some $18 Billion and cause significant disruption.” Surprise. Surprise.
So, to reach the goal set by the President of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for commercial use in ten years, the report says the best option is to “share” the spectrum paths. This is where the ‘superhighways’ analogy comes in. The report likens the situation to that facing the country in 1939 when FDR was president and another commission recommended the building of Interstate highways. This report argues that, just like the Interstates, spectrum can be set up with “the wireless equivalents of signals, sensors and stop lights to avoid collision.”
Regardless what either government does, or thinks it will do, the fact is that the system of delivering content — the ‘platforms’ — is going to change the media landscape significantly in the next ten years. The amount of global mobile data has doubled every year for the last four years. The number of mobile devices today is put at 5 Billion today but is expected to reach as much as 50 Billion by 2020. Remember – there are ‘only’ 7 Billion people in the whole world, and I suspect that many of those in third world countries are not on the Internet.
An eMarketer report said the “Big Four” on-line are Amazon, Google, Facebook and YouTube. Of course, the “Big Four” on-air are ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Which one of them will make it to the “Final Four.”
Well, add another twist to that. A report by Forrester Research says the ‘spoiler’ in all this is Microsoft. Its Xbox 360 is the most-watched net-connected TV device in the U S, and “soon the world.” Holy Mackerel! It says there are 32 Million consumer households watching online video on a TV in the US, with 18.4 Million using a game console. Of those, most are using the Xbox 360 which the report calls a “disruptive onslaught.” Here’s the critical line in the report that I suggest you all think about: “Each combatant has a consumer device strategy, to be sure, but it’s their platform strategies that will determine the TV winner in the long term.”
Which brings me back to the so-called “Smart TVs.” Technically, they are called IPTVs – Internet Protocol Television. There are twice as many of them this year than last. According to Nielsen, of the TVs in use, one out of 20 (4.7%) last year were IPTVs. As of February of this year, that percentage had more than doubled to 10.4%. BUT only 5% of that10.4% actually used the Internet capability. Now, my high school algebra teacher always gave me a hard time about my math skills, so I may be wrong — but the way I calculate this, that means only five out of every thousand television viewers are watching online video on their TVs. The figures are pretty much the same in the U.K. study as well.
But don’t write them off yet. A survey by consulting firm McKinsey of IPTV use in the UK and France says there are serious questions about their use and appeal. It echoes the US numbers with about a tenth buying Smart TV’s and only three percent actually using the function. They call the response in those countries as “lukewarm” at best. BUT (you will notice it’s in capital letters again), it projects IPTV sales to grow by 70% a year, and that they have the ‘potential’ to be ‘breakthrough.’
Now, if you’re a traditional broadcaster, you “know” you don’t need to worry. After all, as a story on the RapidTVNews site so aptly put it, being a couch potato is almost a full-time job. Why? Because another Nielsen study says Americans spend 35 hours a week just watching television. No Internet TV. Just TV. Local News-Two and a Half Men-Network News-American Idol-TV. After all, a study by a group called the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) and comScore says 90% of consumers watch TV on a traditional set.
Oh, well, yes, it’s true that the report also shows that nearly two-thirds (60%) of “media companies’ viewers” were doing something online at the same time they watched TV. Another group, Futuresource Consulting, found similar figures but they also found that four out of five (85%) of 16 to 18 year olds used an “interactive device” while watching TV. And, well, yes, there are reports from firms like IMS Research that show a third (30%) of consumers want to buy a TV with Internet connection. And, well, yes, it’s true that a Harris Interactive poll found that streaming video apps are the most popular apps for the owners of web-connected TVs and non-web-connected places. And, well yes, it’s true that sites Huffington Post are starting their own online video news services. But you professional broadcasters don’t have to worry… do you?
Most of the broadcast industry is opposing the new transparency regulations. This is understandable as a reflexive impulse, but it’s still disappointing. Broadcast news organizations depend on, and consistently call for, robust open-record regimes for the institutions they cover; it seems hypocritical for broadcasters to oppose applying the same principle to themselves. The stations’ public “political file” contains vital information about the American political system, since so much of the money in politics goes toward the purchase of broadcast advertising, and the sponsorship information can help make viewers aware that some of what they are seeing and hearing on the air, especially in the realm of health news, is being paid for by highly interested parties.
It won’t impose a crushing burden on the stations if they have to put information they already have online, and it will greatly enhance the public’s knowledge if it becomes possible to see online the kind of information the regulations affect. We strongly urge the FCC to implement the proposed regulations.
Excerpt of a letter from the deans of 12 American Journalism schools to the FCC in support of the commission’s purposed requirement that television stations put information online about political ad buys for local, state and federal elections.
Background, Part 01: Local and national broadcasters are required to keep files about who is buying political advertising from them. These paper files are available to anyone who cares to go down to their local station and ask for a copy. With this thing called the Internet out there, the FCC thinks it a good idea that stations put these records online. Broadcasters disagree.
Background, Part 02: American airwaves — like its parks — are part of the public commons. The US government gives private companies free licenses to broadcast on these airwaves with the understanding that broadcasters would fulfill certain public service requirements.
Background, Part 03: Disclosure advocates argue that transparently providing information about who’s purchasing political advertising, and providing it in an easily accessible manner — ie, online — is part of that public service requirement.
Background, Part 04: It is estimated that local and national broadcasters will make $3 billion selling political ads this year.
Background, Part 05: Broadcasters such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, along with companies that own local stations, are fighting the regulation, claiming that it places an undue economic burden on their operations. Robert McDowell, a Republican FCC commissioner estimates that it could cost the industry $15 million to scan past documents, and each station somewhere north of $120,000 per year to update and maintain the online files. The National Association of Broadcasters says local stations would have “to hire approximately eight more sales personnel on at least a seasonal basis to handle the increased workload.”
Background, Part 06: Writing at the Columbia Journalism Review, Steve Waldman believes these estimates don’t pass the smell test. Not only is there this neat thing called the Internet through which the data can be published, but there are nifty contraptions called document scanners that can process up to 60 pages a minute. “So even if a station has several thousand pages to scan,” he writes, “it would require one person a few hours, not eight people full time for several months.”
Background, Part 07: When in doubt, claim you’re fighting communism. As many have pointed out, Jerald Fritz, senior vice president of Allbritton Communications, which owns six local ABC affiliates as well as Politico, claims that putting the files online “would ultimately lead to a Soviet-style standardization of the way advertising should be sold as determined by the government.”
Foreground: In the meantime, with files locked away in cabinets but available to anyone willing to pound the pavement, ProPublica has begun working with students at Northwestern’s Medill Journalism School to gather information from five local stations in Chicago. They intend to expand the program as the campaign season continues, and crowdsource the effort among the greater public.
The following week, Nielsen figures showed that the previous week’s ‘CBS Evening News’ had had the worst ratings in the show’s history, which is really saying something, as that history covers sixty years; outdoing itself, the broadcast broke its own record the very next week.
Nancy Franklin, The New Yorker, Anchor Away: Katie Couric’s ill-fated voyage with CBS.
Remember that guy who asked the rest of us to leave Britney Spears alone? Katie Couric needs a guy like that.
Rodney Benson and doctoral student Matthew Powers surveyed public media systems in 14 countries for a Free Press report that documents this. In every Western European democracy they examined, public broadcasting channels attract at least a third of the national TV audience. Public spending per capita on media in all 14 countries ranges from $30 to $134 a year. In the U.S., that figure is less than $4. It goes up to about $9 when individual and corporate donations are included.
In all 14 countries, public media offered higher quality coverage of public affairs, more critical coverage of government and a wider diversity of viewpoints than their commercial counterparts (a pattern that holds for NPR). And these foreign public media stations have the freedom to schedule news programming during prime time, a luxury not afforded to the American viewer who doesn’t get home from work in time to watch the nightly news — at 5:30.
As a result, studies show that the level of knowledge about public affairs in many of these countries is both higher than it is in the U.S. and more equitably spread across education, class, race, ethnicity and gender.