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AFTRA Participates in FTC Journalism Conference

LOS ANGELES (Dec. 2, 2009) --- AFTRA National Director for News and Broadcast Debra Osofsky participated Wednesday in a panel discussion sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.

Osofsky spoke on a panel of experts focusing on how the Internet has affected journalism at the two-day journalism conference titled, "From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?"

In her remarks on the panel, Osofsky observed that unregulated media consolidation and cost-cutting measures negatively affect the news business, deter journalists’ ability to gather and report accurate information, threaten diversity and, ultimately, harm the public interest.

In formal written Comments submitted to the FTC on Dec. 1, Osofsky called on the Commission to support public interest standards in broadcasting stating: “Consolidation of media ownership has led media companies to behave in anti-competitive ways, to the detriment of diversity and localism in the news and information available to the general public. AFTRA submits that support for public interest standards in commercial broadcasting, as well as increased support for public broadcasting, is essential to create a media landscape that promotes democratic principles and an informed electorate.”

While the explosion of digital media presents almost limitless opportunities for the public to receive information, Osofsky’s written Comments further warned that without meaningful protections for journalists now required to work in both traditional and digital media, the public faces a similar threat to the accuracy of the information it receives.

“The proliferation of new media platforms, such as the Internet, when combined with a downturn in the economy, puts tremendous pressure on the way journalists do their jobs, meeting their employers’ demands to produce more news product in a shorter period of time, with fewer resources," she wrote. "[I]n the most extreme cases, journalists have essentially become 'one man bands' — conducting interviews, shooting video, gathering audio, editing news packages and performing live broadcasts from the field, with minimal technical support. With the assumption of new technical duties, but a limited time to get news out to the public, the quality of journalism invariably suffers. Reporters do not have the time and resources to check facts and return calls to sources so that the information in their reports is correct and complete.

"...Media companies that employ journalists do not provide reporters with the time and resources to provide the kind of in-depth analysis that citizens need in a democracy,” Osofsky said.

Osofsky’s written omments also brought to the FTC’s attention the impact media consolidation has had on the spectrum of entertainment and news media covered by AFTRA contracts: “Though the Commission’s inquiry focuses on the crisis facing journalism, it is worth noting that similar considerations of consolidated media ownership come into play in the entertainment arena, where television and radio broadcasters have consolidated, are increasingly competing against themselves and often behave in anti-competitive ways to reduce costs—all at the expense of the public interest.”

The FTC kicked off the event on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The two-day conference was streamed live online, which was made available from the AFTRA Web site.

Click here to read Osofsky's written comments.