TV Station Ownership and Local News Content: A Content Analysis of the Austin, Texas TV Market
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This study examined the ownership characteristics of the four, English-language, broadcast network affiliated television stations in the Austin, Texas designated market area to understand if there is a relationship between ownership and the amount of local news content aired during each station’s late, local newscast. This content analysis, which took place during the November 2013 and November 2014 ratings sweeps period, and using agenda-setting as a theoretical background, sought to explore which stations are giving Austin viewers the most local news content. In addition, this content analysis explored whether or not a change in ownership at the city’s ABC affiliate from a smaller, Texas-based ownership group to ownership by the media conglomerate Gannett, would have a significant difference on the station’s local news product. One change in local news content, specifically the proportion of local stories against total stories in its newscast, resulted in a significant difference following the station’s sale to Gannett. Other measures of local news content experienced no significant change. This research is intended to add to the scholarly discussion and the body of knowledge on the evolving regulatory debate regarding television station ownership, and how changes to regulation can, if at all, affect local news and thus the civic discourse among citizens in local markets.