Terrific piece here from Ed Felten on how new technologies and cultural trends are undermining traditional conceptions of "media localism." It's a theme I have written on at length, most recently in this essay on "Our Continued Wishful Thinking about 'Media Localism'." Anyway, as Felten correctly notes in the conclusion of his essay:
New technologies undermine the rationale for localist policies. It's easier to get far-away content now -- indeed the whole notion that content is bound to a place is fading away. With access to more content sources, there are more possible venues for local programming, making it less likely that local programming will be unavailable because of the whims or blind spots of a few station owners. It's getting easier and cheaper to gather and distribute information, so more people have the means to produce local programming. In short, we're looking at a future with more non-local programming and more local programming.
That's exactly right. As Grant Eskelsen and I argue in Chapter 6 of our new Media Metrics book:
The decline of "localism" in media is a much-lamented but quite natural phenomenon as citizens gain access to news and entertainment sources of broader scale and scope. Although it is impossible to scientifically measure exactly how much "local" fare citizens demand--and defining the term is another challenge--we know that they still receive a wealth of information about developments in their communities. However, it is also evident that, left to their own devices, many citizens have voluntarily flocked to national (and even international) sources of news and entertainment. [...]
[But] the demise of "localism" has been greatly exaggerated. The relative decline in local media is simply a natural development resulting from the voluntary choices made by millions of American citizens, but the tools for producing, distributing, and acquiring local content are more robust than ever.