The limits on local radio ownership currently being enforced by the FCC are no longer justifiable, the National Association of Broadcasters argued in remarks on the latest go-around of the quadrennial review. It’s not asking for a higher cap, though – just the elimination of the AM-FM subcaps.
Here’s how the NAB broke down the issues:
A. Competition in The Audio Marketplace Has Rendered the Current Local Radio Ownership Restrictions Obsolete
NAB argues that many of radios strong new competitors didn’t even exist when the rules governing local ownership were written. Internet, satellite and mobile competitors “permeate the marketplace.” The NAB wonders why the FCC is failing to take into account the proliferation of new technologies that are changing the marketplace.
B. The Local Radio Ownership Restrictions Are Likely Inhibiting Localism
Most decisions concerning the programming of a given radio station are made at the local level, argues the NAB, and because of that, “current local radio ownership restrictions are unnecessary because, even in their absence, local radio stations will do what they have always done—respond to local listeners.” In fact, consolidation of ownership allows economic efficiencies that actually increase the ability of a broadcaster to provide news and information programming On the flip side, the less income, the less ability a broadcaster has to focus on local programming and service.
C. Relaxation of the Local Radio Ownership Restrictions Would Enhance Diversity
The NAB points out that since local ownership caps were raised in 1996, Hispanic and African-American populations have had many radio stations to choose from in many markets. 48% of Hispanics residing in Arbitron-rated markets have 10 or more stations to choose from, and 38% of African-Americans have five or more, compared to 26% in 2000. The continuing adoption of HD radio has opened the door for all kinds of niche programming. It says the presence of different types of formats, not the difference or commonality in ownership behind the programming, should be the standard by which FCC measures diversity.
D. The AM/FM Subcaps Should Be Eliminated
Many AM stations remain among the top rated in their markets, and the advent of HD technology offers promise for others to improve their signals and strengthen their audiences. NAB says the elimination of the subcaps would strengthen radio in general and spin-offs would provide new opportunities for new owners to enter the radio business.