I’m all for a competitive media sector offering a range of choices to media consumers.
But in one case media competition can actually make it harder for media outlets to publish fearlessly.
Regional and suburban newspapers, local radio and website directories all rely heavily on local Council advertising. And, on occasion, on grants.
All Councils have a substantial advertising budget which they can allocate to local media with absolute discretion. That advertising spend can make up a large percentage of local media revenues.
We can see where this is going.
When a Council can withdraw 5-20% of a media business’s revenues because there are other outlets available to take advertising, it has a huge weapon of influence.
When there are competitors, media outlets have no choice but to tread carefully on Council matters, lest they lose their advertising. And to take notice of angry calls from Mayors and Council General Managers.
Ironically, a media monopoly can lead to freer local speech.
Oh, and this isn’t an abstract thought bubble.