Local News Buffeted by Technology, Ownership, Regulators & Courts

The way in which people get their news information continues to evolve rapidly, as reflected in data highlighted by the National Conference on Citizenship, reporting that 23% of adults nationwide get the latest news on at least two mobile devices – and noting that 44% have smart phones and 18% own a tablet – numbers that will surely continue to grow. Of those with digital devices, 70% get their news from a desktop or laptop, 51% from a smartphone and 56% from a tablet device.  The increasing impact of mobile devices and social media in the dissemination of news is outlined at the organization’s – you guessed it – website.

Among those tuning to local television in the region recently, Hartford’s WFSB Channel 3 had a strong Nielsen ratings period for the month of July, according to The Laurel.  Eyewitness News was ranked #1 in the market for each of the station’s newscasts beginning at 4:30 AM and holding top stops from 5-6 AM and 6-7 AM and then at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 PM.

Over at FOX Connecticut, which physically relocated to a joint operation with The Hartford Courant on Broad Street in Hartford when CT1 Media was formed by Tribune Co., owner of both media outlets, the future continues to unfold more outside than in Connecticut.  News reports regarding the long-running Tribune Co. bankruptcy case reached a key milestone last month when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey in Delaware said he would approve a plan that will transfer ownership of the media company to a group of hedge funds and banks.

If and when that occurs, new owners would like move to get the company out of Chapter 11, and seek approval from the Federal Communications Commission in Washington to transfer Tribune's TV licenses to them. Because Tribune Co. owns newspapers and broadcast stations in several markets, including Hartford, the FCC must grant waivers from its restrictions on ownership of multiple media outlets in the same city.

Before Tribune Co., which owns 23 TV stations, went private in 2007, the FCC granted a permanent waiver to the company for its Chicago media holdings. The FCC also granted temporary waivers in Los Angeles, New York, South Florida and Hartford.  But new waivers are required with a change in ownership, and some are urging filed the FCC to deny Tribune Co.'s waiver requests, according to media reports.