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ICYMI—Not all Broadcasters Agree with NAB on Radio Ownership Rules

06 May 2019

Last week, hundreds of comments were submitted to the Federal Communications Commission regarding possible changes to rules that govern local radio ownership. The current rule isn’t perfect, but it protects local radio stations and the diverse content they deliver to their listeners.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and large broadcasters across the country are aggressively pushing the FCC to weaken local radio station ownership caps. They’re proposing that a large broadcast entity be allowed to own or control up to eight commercial FM stations and have unlimited ownership of AM stations in the top radio markets.

But not all broadcasters agree with the NAB. And the radio industry is taking notice.

Take it from two independent, family-owned broadcasters in Massachusetts. Here’s what they had to say about the proposed new ownership cap rules:

Suggested elimination of the ownership cap “would be detrimental to small station owners, as it would lead to larger station owners being able to increase their hold on the radio broadcast market and create an unfavorable and untenable form of competition.”

On the west coast, smaller broadcasters like King City Communications in California agree. They petitioned the Commission to keep the current local radio ownership rules and the cap on station ownership. If the NAB-backed rules are put in place, they’re fearful of “large companies coming into radio markets and buying up all of the independently-owned radio stations.”

For many, local radio is a core part of their community. “King City fondly recalls the days when broadcast radio stations were owned by the people who lived in the communities served by the station, when owning a radio station was not only about profit, but also about making sure the station served the community in the best way possible. Eliminating the ownership cap will hasten the demise of the independent, family-owned broadcast radio station and destroy the localism that is at the center of such stations.”

If the NAB is successful, further media ownership consolidation will result in fewer choices for listeners, and large owners in faraway cities will drown out local content and voices on the air. Fewer owners means AM/FM radio will become less and less local as big corporations buy up small stations that listeners across the country have come to not only love, but rely on.

The musicFIRST Coalition, in partnership with the Future of Music Coalition, filed comments opposing consolidation. They can be found here.

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