All this year on the mediageek blog and radioshow I’ve been covering proposed changes to telelcommunications law and policy that have been roughly lumped together as the Telecom Act of 2006. But we’re still feeling the effects of the last major revision of our telecommunications and media environment that happened with the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
One of the biggest changes to our media landscape happened with the Act’s massive loosening of radio ownership regulations. The 1996 Act did away with the national cap on radio station ownership, and greatly increased the number of stations a single company can own in one market. Those changes precipitated the creation of radio giants like Clear Channel Communications, which owns 1200 stations nationwide, and virtually controls many radio markets across the country.
While we’ve seen the effects of this consolidation on the programs we hear, with nationalized playlists programmed thousands of miles away, and increase in the number of ads per hour, and a loss of localism in radio, there has also been a major impact on jobs in radio.
A new study released by the Future of Music Coalition found that the vast majority of major U.S. cities has experienced both layoffs and lower wage growth within the radio profession.
Jenny Toomey, musician and executive director of the Future of Music Coalition said that radio industry consolidation has, “devastated the broadcast profession and virtually eliminated the ability of radio stations to provide unique coverage of local news, music and community issues. Before the FCC moves forward to further loosen already weak ownership limits, it should understand the impact that deregulation has had on jobs and communities.”
The study’s findings include:
* The combined market share of the top four radio companies in each local market increased by an average of 14.3 percent between 1993 and 2004 across 265 markets.
* Cities with higher degrees of radio consolidation had greater job losses among news reporters and broadcast technicians from 1996 to 2003.
* Cities with higher degrees of radio consolidation experienced smaller wage growth for DJs and news reporters from 1996 to 2003.
According to the study, the ability to own as many as eight stations in a single radio market has allowed companies to exploit an economy of scale though such practices as voice tracking, which uses pre-recorded voice breaks to replace live, local DJ. Companies have cut costs by centralizing operations and reducing the number of programmers, reporters and engineers.
Consolidation has hurt localism through the use of more nationally syndicated music programming and a reduced ability of stations to conduct emergency broadcast warnings.
The study was conducted by FMC Research Director Peter DiCola, and relies on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Survey to measure employment in each of three radio professions (DJs, news reporters, and broadcast technicians) in 246 cities over the years 1996 through 2003.