The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition
Low Power Radio: Lost Opportunity or Success on the Dial? April 2009.

Radio Consolidation and Homogenization

The 21st century is rapidly becoming the Age of Big Media. And as consolidation grows, localism suffers and diversity dwindles. Local ownership of broadcast outlets means better coverage for the communities they serve. Yet it has become increasingly difficult to find radio content that accurately showcases the breadth and diversity of the American experience.

This is not a coincidence. The nonpartisan Future of Music Coalition (FMC) found that in 2005, half of listeners tuned to stations owned by only four companies, and the top ten firms had almost two-thirds of listeners. At the same time, radio listenership has declined 22 percent since its peak in 1989 in the top 155 markets.7 In 2002, FMC found that only four companies controlled two-thirds of the news market.8 Moreover, FMC found a close correlation between declining wages in the radio industry and consolidation, making it harder for workers and entertainers to make a living and increasing the likelihood that small owners will be forced to sell out to large conglomerates.

Consolidation affects content. FMC found that just 15 formats make up more than 76 percent of commercial programming; that only smaller station owners provide music programming such as Classical, Jazz, Americana, Bluegrass, New Rock, and Folk; and that smaller station owners predominantly offer foreign-language, ethnic-community programming, children’s programming, and religious programming.9

Free Press found that minority owners are more likely to air formats that appeal to minority audiences, even though other formats may be more lucrative. Among the 20 general station format categories, minority-owned stations were significantly more likely to air “Spanish,” “religion,” “urban,” and “ethnic” formats. The Spanish and religion formats alone account for nearly half of all minority-owned stations.10

Next Section: Conclusion

7. Peter DiCola, False Premises, False Promises, Future of Music Coalition (2006) at 5.

8. Peter DiCola and Kristin Thomson, Radio Deregulation: Has it Served Listeners and Citizens?, Future of Music Coalition (2002).

9. Id. at 7.

10. Turner, Off the Dial.

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