Radio Stations Seek Ownership Deregulation From FCC

Dec 20, 2023

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2023 – It’s not just TV stations that want deregulation from the Federal Communications Commission. So do radio stations.

Facing stiff competition from Amazon, Facebook, and Google for ad dollars, radio broadcasters Connoisseur Media and Mid-West Family Broadcasting are saying the FCC needs “to relax the current local radio ownership rules particularly for companies like theirs, that already provide significant local service, and would increase such service if allowed to own more stations in their markets.”

Radio broadcasters, they added, need ownership scale so they “can offer local programming and more diverse program offerings …” and attract “new entrants to come into radio markets.”

Representatives of both companies held a Teams meeting Monday with two aides to FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez, according to a document filed electronically with the FCC today.

TV stations, including three of the Big Four networks and independent affiliates, have also been pressing the FCC to weaken local ownership restrictions over the objections of cable TV operators. The FCC is under a court order to issue a decision by Dec. 27.

According to the FCC, the U.S. has 15,385 radio stations – 6,670 FM, 4,452 AM and 4,263 FM Educational. The FCC’s website says “limitations on the number of radio stations a single entity may own in an area are based on a sliding scale that varies by the size of the market.”

For example, the FCC says “in a radio market with 45 or more stations, an entity may own up to eight radio stations, no more than five of which may be in the same service (AM or FM).”

The FCC reduces the number of stations a single entity may own in smaller markets. “In a radio market with 14 or fewer radio stations, an entity may own up to five radio stations, no more than three of which may be in the same service, as long as the entity does not own more than 50 percent of all radio stations in that market,’ the FCC says.

Connoisseur Media and Mid-West Family Broadcasting want ownership caps relaxed, insisting they vie for advertising revenue against “digital media giants” that are “unconstrained by regulation, while radio companies have FCC limits on their ability to grow in any market.”

The radio broadcasters say market dominance was established long ago, obviating the need for the FCC to retain rules last updated in 1996 before digital media became a thing.

“No radio station in any market has more than 1% of the local advertising market share – while Google, Facebook and Amazon divide more than half of that local revenue and provide no local service,” the radio broadcasters said.

The raido station owners said their straightened circumstances – audience and revenue are both down by half since 2011 – make it hard to sell their stations.

“There are radio owners in many markets today who want to exit the market and cannot find a buyer for their stations. There is not a shortage of stations to buy, but a shortage of buyers willing to invest in stations that cannot achieve scale in their markets,” the radio broadcasters said.