The Real Cost of The Telecommunications Act of 1996, Title II.

Posted by truecreek on February 25, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | 3 Comments to Read

To say it’s been brutal to those who chose the radio business as a career path is, unfortunately, an understatement.

Every few days, I hear about another round of job cuts, or rumors to the same. On-air talent, programmers, salespeople, broadcast producers and more continue to be let go.

I blame consolidation and syndication.  And it’s been going on for years.

Prior to the passage of The Act in January 1996, the radio business was robust in this country. You had thousands of FM and AM stations dotting the nation.  The majority of them were owned by small to medium sized companies.

The Act dramatically changed that landscape by removing or changing most of the media ownership rules and caps in place at the time.

Enter the era of the large radio ownership groups.

Today, there are six radio ownership groups that control more than 100 stations each.  The largest, Clear Channel Communications, divested themselves of 448 stations in 2007, yet still owns more than 840 stations and coincidentally, announced mass layoffs just a week or two ago.

Second is Cumulus, with about a third of that number of stations.  If they all continue to follow the ‘less is more’ philosophy, there will be even more creative and very talented people out on the street.

To best illustrate the comparison between pre-Act and post-Act, let’s look at some specifics.

During my tenure with CBS Radio, I was a sales representative for WYNF-FM and WSUN-AM in Tampa.  YNF had its own management, on-air talent, programmers, engineers, salespeople, promotions personnel and a complete accounting and traffic staff.

Our sister station, WSUN-AM, also had its own on-air talent and programmers.  All told, we probably had somewhere around 60 or 70 people working for those two stations.

It was the way radio was meant to be.

The station was unique in its programming, had great talent, a loyal following and was a real trendsetter musically.  And the ‘numbers’ bore that out, allowing for CBS to garner some very nice profits from the two stations.

In August of 1993, the stations were sold to another large radio group and today that group owns 6 stations in the Tampa market.

You would think that’s a lot of stations for one company to own in a market, but it is easy today to find ownership groups running six, seven or even eight stations in a single market.

But here’s the rub: now, there’s one, maybe two, program directors. One General Manager. One sales staff. One promotions department. One accounting and traffic department. You get the idea. That’s a lot of people out the door.

Another beat down to full employment is syndicated programming.

This programming, primarily of the news/talk format, is much more prevalent today than ever.

That means local talent comes in second to nationally recognized (cheaper) talent, brought to you direct from New York City, or L.A.  It might be Rush, or perhaps Ryan Seacrest, Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck.

Regardless, it’s just more jobs lost and it is wrecking havoc with our variety of voice.  Local creativity and originality are gone. There’s no differentiation any more. You hear the same thing, coast to coast.

Consolidation of our radio stations is a serious issue that needs to be addressed sooner than later.

Without revisions to Title II, we’re going to see the destruction of the radio industry’s talent, sales and management base continue.  The large broadcast groups have mismanaged the “efficiencies” in consolidation.  It’s now nothing more than a code word for job cuts.

  • Rebecca Flora said,

    Not to mention what it does to us poor listeners who have to hear Sade every 10 minutes. If you’re not on the approved play list, you don’t get played. Sade must be paying a fortune to stay on this list. Tough luck for the garage band looking for a break.

  • truecreek said,

    What is interesting is that the large ownership groups are beginning to realize that they are too big to manage properly . They have been selling properties over the past year or so.

  • wordwrangler said,

    Thank God for Internet radio.

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