The media market is overwhelmingly private, and pluralism and diversity characterize the American media scene. Only the over-the-air electronic media are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. The Commission has a mandate to oversee ownership concentration and, to a slight extent, program diversity. Since the mid-1990s, ownership restrictions have been relaxed, with consolidation in the radio market increasing as a result. But there are few signs that diversity has suffered. There are well over 1,500 TV stations in the United States, most of which (1,409) are affiliated with one of the national networks. The traditional major networks pursue a policy of pluralism, while the more recent entrant, Fox News, in its political programming, takes an openly conservative point of view. There are additional outlets that tend to serve educated viewers. Non-advertisement-revenue based stations include affiliates of National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Corporation. Public funding has been decreasing steadily and has had to be replaced by contributions from listeners or viewers and by sponsorship funds. In some cable networks, international news outlets such as BBC World and Deutsche Welle are available. The network of public stations is available in all parts of the country.
The digital revolution has drastically changed the ways in which the cable market is regulated, as regulations have decreased and the delivery of services (cable, TV) converged. The market is characterized by growing competition, a process that the FCC currently supports. Internet media services are becoming important sources of information, particularly among the elite segments of public opinion. The dominance of a local newspaper over larger metropolitan areas has been broken by the availability of national newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal) ever since the introduction of satellite transmission. The larger metropolitan newspapers are characterized by an internal pluralism, particularly on the commentary pages.
Economically, newspapers have come under pressure. Readership among adults has dropped by 10 percentage points in this decade. Advertising revenues are falling, consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet, and many newspaper chains are burdened by debt. Between 2007 and 2010, there have been eight major newspaper bankruptcies, including well-established papers such as the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Some of these papers have been taken over by private equity funds. Newspapers have reduced reporting and editorial staff as well as the space available for news coverage. During the same period, 10 papers closed altogether or went exclusively online. How these developments will affect media pluralism and the volume and quality of information available remains unknown. The quality of Internet-based sources varies and exposes readers to large amounts of unreliable information.
Newspaper wars, in Financial Times, April 26, 2010, 15, CRS, The U.S. Newspaper Industry in Transition, Washington D.C., July 8, 2009.