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Consolidation and Indecency: Fuzzy Research and Sloppy Journalism

“Study Ties Indecency to Consolidation of Media” – that’s the widely reported headline discussing a study by something called the “Center for Creative Voices in Media” (a label which hardly implies a neutral posture on the issue of consolidation).

“The consolidation of the broadcast industry over the last decade may have increased indecent programming on the nation’s airwaves,” the study reports.

But how many folks – journalists included – have actually read the study?

If you do read the study (and do so for yourself), these words stand out above all others:

These results do not prove a causal link between ownership concentration and broadcast indecency.

Could that be any clearer? It means just because certain things are correlated doesn’t mean one causes the other. For example, 9/11 and the Katrina disaster are also correlated with consolidation, but I doubt you’d argue that media consolidation was the cause.

Unless, of course, you’re a lazy journalist.

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