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ICYMI – NPR Reports on the Consequences of Loosening Radio Ownership Rules

14 June 2019

On June 7, NPR’s Marissa Moss reported on the negative implications of loosening radio ownership rules. Drawing on the blacklisting of the Dixie Chicks in the early 2000s, Moss demonstrates how consolidation would allow big broadcasters to dictate what gets played on radio stations around the country leading to less localism and diversity.

Below are a few excerpts from the report:

“Though discussions about the impact of radio consolidation and the Telecommunications Act have faded since then, a new proposal on local ownership could change the face of AM/FM radio forever – and empower a whole new generation of current and future broadcasters of any genre to ‘Dixie Chick’ a song or artist from the airwaves, for whatever reason they choose.”

“Spearheaded by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the proposal — raised during the FCC’s every-four-year assessment of media ownership laws, called the Quadrennial Review — could make the concept of ‘local radio’ nearly extinct, say several groups opposing it.”

“That control could lead to an even greater lack of diversity of content, which is already apparent in numerous segments of radio, from rock to country, where women are increasingly being squeezed out.”

“If these ownership laws are loosened even further, argues Kevin Erickson of Future of Music, you end up with ‘fewer and fewer remaining protections for diversity’… ‘It will lead to less and less local content, and less and less accessibility,’ says Erickson. ‘Less decisions made at the local level, and more consolidated playlists.’”

“But loosening these ownership caps could have deeper ramifications when it comes to penalties for artists who choose to speak openly about political and social issues – again, just look as far as the Dixie Chicks to be reminded of the power of a unified programming decision.”

“While there are many ways for artists to make a living without the support of radio, a lack of airplay is directly related to their ability to profit from those other means, or even reach local fan bases who might buy tickets to a concert. A program director in New York or Chicago will never be as in-tune with whatever is bubbling in the roots scene in Tulsa or hip-hop in Houston, and it will be increasingly difficult for artists to build that local buzz without any organic local radio support.”

“‘Consolidation is not the answer,’ says Francis. ‘Innovation is.’”

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