Future of Music Coalition: Radio Consolidation Hurts

Publish date:

Future of Music Coalition: Radio Consolidation Hurts

Dec 14, 2006 12:45 PM

Washington - Dec 13, 2006 - The Future of Music Coalition (FMC) released a report called False Premises, False Promises: A Quantitative History of Ownership Consolidation in the Radio Industry that documents the effects of radio station ownership consolidation on musicians and the public. The FMC's data in the report shows that station ownership consolidation at the national and local levels has led to fewer choices in radio programming and harmed the listening public and those working in the music and media industries, including DJs, programmers and musicians.

A teleconference to discuss the report was held on Dec. 13 and featured Jenny Toomey, executive director, Future of Music Coalition; Tom Morello of Audioslave, The Nightwatchman, and formerly of Rage Against the Machine; Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal and international affairs, Consumers Union; Michael Bracy, policy director, Future of Music Coalition; and Peter DiCola, research director, Future of Music Coalition and the report's author.

Some of the statistics presented in the report:

  • The top four radio station owners have almost half of the listeners and the top 10 owners have almost two-thirds of listeners.
  • The localness of radio ownership -- ownership by individuals living in the community -- has declined between 1975 and 2005 by almost one-third.
  • 15 formats make up three-quarters of all commercial programming. Moreover, radio formats with different names can overlap up to 80 percent in terms of the songs played on them.
  • Niche musical formats like classical, jazz, americana, bluegrass, new rock and folk, where they exist, are provided almost exclusively by smaller station groups.
  • Across 155 markets, radio listenership has declined over the past 14 years, a 22 percent drop since its peak in 1989.

The 116-page report presents a history of radio broadcasting and consolidation that most broadcasters already know. The report presents its information with an intended audience of non-broadcast readers. The recurring theme of the report echoes the stance that only a handful of owners control the vast majority of stations and that the Telecom Act of 1996 has had a detrimental effect. The net effect is a reduction in format choices.

The NAB immediately issued its own rebuttal to the report and cite a report from the BIA Financial Network. A recent BIA report shows that the number of general programming formats provided by local radio stations increased by 7.5 percent since 2001. In addition, BIA notes that markets of all sizes saw substantial increases in the average number of specific programming formats provided, with an average 22.2 percent increase since 2001, and that across all markets since 1996 the number of general and specific programming formats has increased by 16 percent and 36.4 percent, respectively.

The NAB also counters the FMC claims that the 1996 Telecommunications Act has stifled diversity and led to homogenized programming.

  • In just the last six years the number of U.S. Spanish-language radio stations increased by 45.5 percent. In 2000, there were 547 Hispanic radio stations; today, there are nearly 800, providing diverse types of music that include Mexican, Tejano and Ranchera.
  • Asian-language radio stations have also increased. BIA reports that nine of the top 10 Asian markets have at least one Asian-programmed station in their market.
  • 72.1 percent of African-Americans in Arbitron-rated markets can receive three or more Urban programmed stations compared to only 61.9 percent six years ago. More than 52 percent of all African-Americans living in Arbitron metro areas have four or more Urban programmed stations in their markets.

Read the FMC report at this link. Read the BIA report at this link.