Who Really Owns Rhode Island’s Media

Saturday, October 07, 2017

News organizations in Rhode Island are becoming big news. Shrinking newsrooms, embedding pro-Trump content, Political Action Committees, top lobbying firms, and fighting off bankruptcy. 

Rhode Island’s media is big business and almost entirely owned by out-of-state corporations. Going back twenty years ago, the lead newspaper and the top two television stations had local ownership.

The rapidly changing media landscape leaped to the top of the news cycle in Rhode Island when Governor Gina Raimondo diminished the Providence Journal’s importance due to the near endless cuts to the newsrooms — today there are just 16 reporters — down from a 1980s high of more than 200 reporters.

Some media in Rhode Island has closed. The Providence Phoenix closed in 2014 and WBRU was sold earlier this year to a Christian radio group.


On Tuesday, Raimondo said during a discussion at Brown University, "Six years ago, when I started this, our local paper, The Providence Journal, was something that many or most Rhode Islanders read...certainly all influencers read [it]."  

Newspaper industry once dominant, now fighting for survival
"[The Providence Journal] It's a shadow of its former self ... I think they're down to 16 reporters, so you can't rely on that."

While the Providence Journal’s newsroom has been slashed, its ownership leads all the way to Tokyo, Japan. Through a series of ownership groups and management structures, the Providence Journal’s ultimate owner is SoftBank. 

SoftBank promised President Donald Trump to invest $50 billion in America and a New York Times article published in March of this year that a significant portion of those investment funds are tied to a massive Saudi investment. That fund has now grown to $100 billion.

“Yet unmentioned that day — and largely unremarked upon — is that Mr. Son’s $100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund could reasonably be described as a front for Saudi Arabia and perhaps other countries in the Middle East,” wrote the New York Times.

Corporate Television Groups

But, the Providence Journal is not the only media in transition and under fire. WJAR-10’s parent company Sinclair Media has been widely criticized for its mandated conservative pro-Trump content embedded in news segments. Everyone from HBO’s John Oliver to Politico has raised questions about the close ties between Sinclair and the Trump administration.

WPRI-12’s parent company Nexstar Media Group of Irving, Texas is no shrinking political media player either — complete with a high powered Washington, D.C. lobbying group and its own Political Action Committee. 

The Nextstar PAC gave $5,000 to Donald J. Trump for President and $5,000 for Hillary for America Committee in the last election cycle. And provided a $10,000 donation to Team Ryan —  one of the PACs associated with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to Federal Election Campaign records.

Ties between Trump administration and Sinclair
In this election cycle, the biggest recipient of Nexstar’s PAC dollar is Conservative U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Nexstar engages K Street law firm Wiley Rein for federal lobbying — at a cost of $80,000, according to Open Secrets.

Radio Battling Against Bankruptcy

While newspapers are cutting, and television is consolidating, radio is in complete economic distress. Two national radio groups own more than seventy percent of the audience.

Cumulus who owns Rhode Island stations such as WPRO FM and AM has seen its stock plummet and is facing delisting by the NASDAQ.

The 52-week high of the Cumulus stock was $2.40 — the stock closed on Friday at $0.33 a share.

Similarly, iHeartMedia — the largest major group in America is crushed with a reported $20 billion in debt. The stock price has dropped from a 52-week high of $4.01 to a closing price Friday of $1.35.

  • Newspaper

    Providence Journal --> GateHouse --> New Media Investment Group --> Fortress --> SoftBank

    Location: Tokyo, Japan

    Total Newspapers: 125 Daily Newspapers, 600 Community

  • TV

    WJAR-10 --> Sinclair Broadcasting

    Location: Hunt Valley, Maryland

    Total Stations: 233 Stations

  • TV

    WPRI-12 --> Nexstar

    Location: Irving, Texas

    Total Stations: 170

  • TV

    ABC-6 --> Citadel Communication

    Location: Bronxville, NY

    Total Stations: 3

  • Radio

    WHJJ, WHJY + More --> iHeart Media

    Location: San Antonio, Texas

    Stations: 858

  • Radio

    WPRO AM, WPRO FM + More --> Cumulus Media

    Location: Atlanta, Georgia

    Stations: 447

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