New Media Tracker Reveals Media Coverage by ZIP Code
Relaunched version plots broadcasting facilities on maps, tells number of broadband providers, examines more than five million records
By Drew Clark
Who controls what you read in the newspaper, what you see or hear on television or radio, and the bits of data that flow over cable and telecommunications wires? You can find out simply by typing your ZIP code into the Media Tracker.
A cornerstone of the Center for Public Integrity’s “Well Connected” project, the Media Tracker is a free, searchable online database relaunched. Its core benefit is that it gives anyone the ability to search out details about the U.S. media and telecommunications companies that control the flow of information in our digital age.
By typing in a ZIP code or a city and state, users can retrieve a dossier of information about the television stations, radio stations, cable systems and newspapers serving that area.
The Media Tracker database scans more than 5 million pieces of information from governmental sources, corporate disclosure documents and original research. The raw data on broadcast licensees and cable television systems comes from the Federal Communication Commission. It is augmented by Security and Exchange Commission data to ensure comprehensiveness and accuracy.
The Media Tracker generates a series of tables about the media providers within the requested locale. The links included in those tables are gateways to a rich collection of data about the corporations.
With the FCC just beginning a process of re-examining the rules governing media ownership, the Media Tracker is a resource that can provide policy-makers, journalists, academics and average citizens with the information they need to evaluate how ownership decisions have affected their neighborhood.
One new feature of the relaunched Media Tracker is that it now offers users maps that display the exact locations of television and radio broadcasters in the area. The points indicated on the maps represent tower information, and clicking on them yields details about the broadcaster.
Another new addition is a tab with data about the number of companies that provide broadband (high-speed Internet) access in a given ZIP code.
The corporate pages in the Media Tracker provide information about the facilities owned by each company within that sector.
The relaunched site also includes fresh corporate and financial information about the 200 leading telecommunications, media and broadband providers. Further, users will find 48 new profiles — one on each of the top companies in each industry sector — that include details on corporate history, policy agendas and the legislative and regulatory activities.
The Center for Public Integrity also seeks to display information about broadband providers by ZIP code, but the FCC has refused the Center’s Freedom of Information Act request for access to its database of broadband providers.
When the FCC failed to respond to the Center’s Aug. 24. request within the required 20 working days, the Center filed suit in the federal district court in Washington. Neither the U.S. Attorney’s Office nor the FCC has replied to the lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 25.
On Sept. 26, the FCC replied by fax to the Center’s FOIA request. It denied the request on the grounds that “the requested records contain commercially sensitive, competitive information,” said Kirk Burgee, associate bureau chief in the agency’s Wireline Competition Bureau. Further, Burgee said, “the release would cause harm to the entities that submitted the requested information.”