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Working Paper

Viewpoint Diversity in Cross-Owned Newspapers and Television Stations: A Study of News Coverage of the 2000 Presidential Campaign

David Pritchard

Media Bureau Staff Research Paper 2002-2 (Sept 2002) was written by Pritchard (Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) at the request of the Media Bureau as part of its review of the FCC's ownership rules.  Pritchard was commissioned to study news coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign by cross-owned newspapers and television stations in several American communities. His study examines the extent to which commonly owned newspapers and television stations in a community speak with a single voice about important political matters.

Pritchard analyzed data about the news coverage of ten cross-owned newspaper-television combinations.  His results show that, in five of those combinations, the overall slant of the coverage broadcast by a company's television station was noticeably different from the overall slant of the coverage provided by the same company's newspaper.  In the other five combinations, the overall slant of newspaper coverage of the 2000 campaign was not significantly different from the overall slant of the local television coverage.

The data do not enable him to ascertain why the overall slants in those cases were similar.  Pritchard does conclude, however, that the data suggest common ownership of a newspaper and a television station in a community does not result in a predictable pattern of news coverage and commentary about important political events in the commonly owned outlets.

Issued: September 2002

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