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"How Come One Company Owns All The Radio Stations?"
A Simple Explanation To What Happened To Local Radio Ownership
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I'm sure that thought has probably popped into your head at some point over the past few years. Well, actually, it's more like one company owns a LOT of the Radio Stations. Contrary to what you might think, Clear Channel doesn't own them all (only about 1200 or so). There are other companies (not as big) which own stations, too, like: Cumulus, Infinity, Jefferson Pilot, Susquehanna, etc. But, sometimes it FEELS like "one guy" owns them all.

Well, here's how we got to where we are. Last century, in 1996, Congress passed the "Telecommunications Act of 1996", which covered a lot of changes to cable, TV, telephone service, satellite and terrestrial Radio. Actually, only a small part of the law dealt with Radio but here's what changed everything:

Title II, Sec. 202 (a) modified the previous law, now allowing any company to own as many total Radio stations as it wanted. In effect, the Congress shouted, "FOOD FIGHT", created a buying frenzy and trashed "any provisions limiting the number of AM or FM broadcast stations which may be owned or controlled by one entity nationally." "WHOO HOO!", shouted Corporate America, sounding just like Homer Simpson discovering pie in the fridge.

Next, in Sec. 202 (b)(1), the law laid out what percentage of Radio stations in each "market" one company could own.

For instance, if your city had 45 or more commercial Radio stations, one company could "own, operate, or control" up to 8 of them, but not more than 5 of which were in the same "service" as in AM or FM.

In places where there were between 30 and 44 stations, one guy could grab up to 7 stations, but no more than 4 AM or FMs.

If you lived where there were between 15 and 29, the same guy could buy up to 6, but again, not more than 4 in the same service, AM or FM.

And finally, if you lived in Waddlesbeek, Idaho, and there were 14 or fewer stations, Mr. Big Shot could control up to 5, but not more than 3 in the same service. Oh, but just to make sure things didn't get out of hand, the law stated that in a place the size of Waddlesbeek, no company could own more than say, 50% of the stations.

So, if Waddlesbeek had 6 stations serving its wonderfully backward rural needs, some guy from L.A. could come in and buy 3 of them, dump the Saturday morning "Swap Shop", pretty much trash the Public Service Announcements for the PTA and Lion's Club and either automate the joint or feed music programming via satellite from a studio in Burbank.

And this, kids, is how the F.C.C, Congress and probably a handful of lobbyists decided Radio stations should "serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity."

There is some good news: if you're tired of corporate Radio, even YOU can still own your own Internet Radio Station and neither Congress, the F.C.C., or any one company can control how you run it or what you play on it.

- Corey Deitz

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