Newspapers, television and radio stations in the United States are far ahead of media in any other country because people here understand media outlets are businesses, an international media broker said Thursday.

Gary Gomm, a media investment consultant and broker who has worked with such high-powered groups as Pulitzer Publishing, CBS, Metromedia and Rupert Murdoch, told Brigham Young University communications students that although the media play a unique role in a free society, it is still a profit-motivated industry.Gomm said the American media are "without equal in the world. (But) newspapers must return to their owners a fair profit."

Gomm spends a great deal of his time arranging deals to sell newspapers, and often, a large newspaper group is buying an independent, family-owned paper. Some people criticize the trend toward large corporations taking over several papers throughout the country, but often the group papers put out better products, he said.

"The question is, `Are independent newspapers better able to satisfy customers than are those associated with a group? Are they more responsible to the needs of the public?' The owners and publishers (of independent papers) are less courageous, because they are afraid of being sued," he said. "I see it all the time. Innovation has taken place in group-owned newspapers."

Because group-owned papers have greater monetary resources, they are less likely to fear legal action, and have a greater capacity to make equipment and editorial improvements, Gomm said.

If the public did sense that independent newspapers served them better, those publications would probably win local circulation battles with group papers, but Gomm said the group papers often win.

"There isn't any evidence that they have better circulation or penetration than group-owned newspapers. In some areas group papers are strongly preferred. The parochial environment of a family newspaper I've seen is very stifling. I believe that the groups do want to be a part of the community they serve just as much as the independents."

But should the public be concerned about one corporation controlling so many communication sources?

"I suppose there could be a risk to that. I've seen an abuse of that once," he said. "I've not seen anyone try to have a rubber-stamp newspaper."

Gomm is head of R. Gary Gomm and Co. Inc., based in San Antonio, Texas. The company specializes in mergers, acquisitions and valuation of media companies throughout the world. Since 1972, the firm has participated in more than 60 transactions.