Local radio is it a thing of the past and just holding on by the skin of its teeth?
I say yes and the main reason is that the Telecommunications act of 1996 has allowed the huge conglomerates to come in and buy up most of the stations in the large to medium markets and playing the fewest songs that appeal to the most people. Though more than 30,000 CDs are released in a year, the national play lists are getting tighter than ever and are being influenced by big money from the big labels being brought into the stations through independent radio promoters.
As the former manager of the Police, Miles Colpeland said in the article “What’s Wrong With Radio?” by Greg Kot of Rolling Stone Magazine, “the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which deregulated radio and set off an unprecedented wave of media mergers. That action “made radio more corporate, more homogeneous, and rounded out the rough edges that make music interesting.” I can’t agree more. Back in the day the independent radio stations use to break new bands and had all the control of their play lists as well as being a little rough and fun to listen to.
In today’ radio markets the play lists are set by corporate management and focus groups. The Disc Jockey we know of old who use to bring in interesting and new music is gone and now we have a person who is told what he can play and when.
I am one of those old-time radio announcers from the 80’s. I use to go into the studio with a pile of records and cd’s and try to give the listeners a vast selection of music to listen to as well as the hits of the time. I felt my job was to open the minds of the listeners to new types of music and new bands. Nowadays if a band doesn’t have a contract with the big record labels they probably won’t be getting their air time on the radio.
Another big problem with these big media mergers is that the local areas have lost their local stations. Sure in the morning you get some local news and traffic but you don’t have a station that is giving back to the community in one way or another. The owner is located in another state or town so the bulk of the money spent on advertising is leaving the community the station is in. Or worse as Gabriel Harrison said in Brian Liberatore of the Press & Sun-Bulletin’s article BU disc jockey contends radio giants inadequate in serving some markets.
“You get these stations that advertise themselves as top 20 stations and some of them are run by machines,” Harrison said. “Some have gotten rid of the DJs. Now they just have sales positions. Used to be when you called a radio station they’d say, ‘Hey, what song do you want to hear?’ Now you get a secretary who says, ‘What business office can I connect you to?’ “
The listenership of radio has been dropping for a few years now..due to poor music selection, internet radio, and satellite radio. Internet radio is giving the listener what they want to hear variety in the music and not the same 40 songs that the local radio station is playing.
So what can you the listener do about all this…let your voices be heard?
Every radio station in the United States gets its broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission for free — on the condition that the station serves “the public interest.”
This license needs to be renewed every eight years. If the station isn’t holding up its end of the bargain, people can file objections with the FCC during this renewal process to let federal regulators know.
These “informal objections” establish an official record of dissatisfaction with a poorly performing station. The more citizens who participate in the license renewal process, the more likely it is that the FCC and the station itself will take notice. License renewals provide a good organizing opportunity for media activists. You can use the license renewal as a chance to analyze your broadcasters’ service and educate your
community about broadcasters’ public interest duties.
Here’s how to file an informal objection:
Step 1: Time It Right
Find out when stations in your state need to renew their licenses. Plan to submit your comments two to four months before the license expires, though you can file any time between when the station submits its renewal and when the renewal is granted. You can monitor the status of a station’s application via the FCC’s Consolidated Database System.
Step 2: Get Your Information together
Every station is required to keep a public file, which includes documentation of a station’s political, educational, children’s and community affairs programming. You are entitled to look through this file upon request. You can also gather information on a station by monitoring and documenting what the station is broadcasting.
In particular, you may want to examine the station’s news coverage and public affairs programming. Does the local news programming reflect the concerns, needs and values of the community? Does the local news provide adequate and thorough political coverage (both local and national)? Is the station’s political coverage balanced? Or are certain
people or viewpoints being treated unfairly? How does the local news portray different segments of the local community? Does the station air enough community affairs programming? Is the local news actually “local”? Or is it produced and taped elsewhere?
Step 3: Sending that Letter
On the first page of the letter, include the station’s call letters, city and state, the station’s facility number, and the station’s license renewal application file number (you can find this info in the FCC’s database).
In the body of your letter, provide specific information about the station’s performance and why its license should be revoked. Point out the things you found during Step 2 – and any actions by the station that aren’t in your community’s best interests. Remember that the FCC doesn’t monitor stations’ programming, so provide as many specifics as you
For radio stations, address your letter to:
Audio Division, License Renewal Processing Team
FCC, Office of the Secretary
445 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20554
You must also send a copy of your objection to the station’s general manager. Filing an informal objection isn’t the only way to get involved in the license renewal process; you can also file a formal “Petition to Deny,” which carries more weight but requires more work (and usually the help of a few lawyers). See the FCC site for more information.
In Binghamton one Dick Jockey and a handful of listeners sent a petition to the FCC asking the agency to deny the license renewals of 11 local radio stations owned by Clear Channel Communications. The local group contends the nationwide corporate takeover of radio stations has limited local production, lowered the quality of broadcasting and nearly destroyed the medium.
Remember the airwaves are in a public trust and we have handed it over to these companies.