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Is Content Sharing Good or Bad for Local Stations?

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter examines content sharing as a “survival strategy” for local stations, noting the increase of shared-services agreements “resembles the retrenchment of the American newspaper industry, but it has been far less publicized.”

Stelter takes a look at the San Angelo market, which is home to Fox-affiliate KIDY, CBS-affiliate KLST and NBC-affiliate KSAN. KLST and KSAN operate under a shared service agreement, which the FCC estimates exist in at least 83 of the 210 U.S. television markets:

The anchors are different at the NBC station KSAN and the CBS station KLST, but they read similar scripts in side-by-side studios. It’s almost comical, for a viewer flipping the channel back and forth, to see identical segments about spot news and health. (The weather segments, however, have different graphics and hosts.)

The anchors and reporters at the stations declined interview requests, citing company policy. But [Nexstar chairman Perry] Sook said the stations were a “perfect example of the purpose of a shared services agreement.”  Without the agreement, he said, KSAN would have no local news at all, because it would not be profitable.

Public interest groups have criticized the cutbacks at local newsrooms because they reduce the number of editorial voices in a given market. They assert that because TV stations hold licenses to the public airwaves, they have a responsibility to serve local communities. “The same cookie-cutter content above a different graphic doesn’t cut it,” said Craig Aaron, the head of Free Press, a nonprofit media reform group that has gathered case studies of sharing by stations.

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