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Highlights

The media industry plays a vital role in informing and entertaining the public. Media ownership and the availability of diverse programming have been a long-standing concern of Congress. Despite numerous programming choices in television and radio available to the public, some studies have reported that independently produced programming--that is, programming not affiliated with broadcast networks or cable operators--has decreased through the years. This requested report discusses (1) the extent to which the sources of television programming have changed over the last decade, (2) the factors industry stakeholders identified as affecting the availability of independent television programming, and (3) the factors industry stakeholders identified as influencing programming decisions in radio. To address these issues, GAO analyzed data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and industry on sources of broadcast television programming in prime time (weeknights generally from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.) and companies owning cable networks, as well as radio format data to determine programming variety. GAO also reviewed legal, agency, and industry documents and interviewed industry stakeholders, public interest groups, and others. GAO provided FCC with a draft of this report for comment. In response, FCC provided technical comments that we incorporated where appropriate.

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