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Broadcast Ownership Regulation in a Border Era: An Analysis of how the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is Shaping the Debate on Broadcast Ownership Limits
Unformatted Document Text:  21 the effectiveness of this law should “be based on whether they solve those problems and on whether those were the problems that needed solving” (Aufderheide, 1999, p. 62). In the case of broadcast ownership rules, the perceived difficulty was to keep broadcasting (the only electronic medium that reaches nearly all Americans free of charge) competitive in a new era of emerging technologies (e.g., cable, direct broadcast satellite, Internet, etc.) (see Aufderheide, 1999, p. 68; and U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Conference Committee, 1996, p. 11). For radio, in particular, broadcasters had argued that the very viability of the medium was threatened because of “the low advertising rates and that owners were too poor to program creatively” (Aufderheide, 1999, p. 69). That brings us to the first of Aufderheide’s (1999) two essential questions: Did the law solve the problem? The answer depends on whom you ask. For large radio chains, such as Clear Channel, which have benefited from the market efficiencies of horizontal integration, the answer is ‘yes.’ For small independent stations, the answer is ‘no.’ This paradox is evident in the rift among National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) members. Three networks, CBS, NBC, and Fox (along with their 51 owned-and-operated stations) have left the trade association in dispute of the NAB’s position on the broadcast ownership limits (see Hickey, 2002). The NAB would like the FCC to retain current limits “in deference to the wishes of its independent, nonaffiliated station members”, while the defecting networks “want to push the FCC to expand it because they’re eager to buy up more stations” (Hickey, 2002). As Drushel (1998) has pointed out, the 1996 Act allowed concentration of radio ownership, which did not result in increased listener choice, but rather, increased advertising rates for fewer sources that were able to take “control of a popular and pervasive mass medium” (p. 19). Howard (1998) had noted a similar trend in

Authors: Blevins, Jeffrey. and Brown, Duncan.
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the effectiveness of this law should “be based on whether they solve those problems and on
whether those were the problems that needed solving” (Aufderheide, 1999, p. 62).
In the case of broadcast ownership rules, the perceived difficulty was to keep
broadcasting (the only electronic medium that reaches nearly all Americans free of charge)
competitive in a new era of emerging technologies (e.g., cable, direct broadcast satellite, Internet,
etc.) (see Aufderheide, 1999, p. 68; and U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Conference
Committee, 1996, p. 11). For radio, in particular, broadcasters had argued that the very viability
of the medium was threatened because of “the low advertising rates and that owners were too
poor to program creatively” (Aufderheide, 1999, p. 69).
That brings us to the first of Aufderheide’s (1999) two essential questions: Did the law
solve the problem? The answer depends on whom you ask. For large radio chains, such as Clear
Channel, which have benefited from the market efficiencies of horizontal integration, the answer
is ‘yes.’ For small independent stations, the answer is ‘no.’ This paradox is evident in the rift
among National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) members. Three networks, CBS, NBC, and
Fox (along with their 51 owned-and-operated stations) have left the trade association in dispute
of the NAB’s position on the broadcast ownership limits (see Hickey, 2002). The NAB would
like the FCC to retain current limits “in deference to the wishes of its independent, nonaffiliated
station members”, while the defecting networks “want to push the FCC to expand it because
they’re eager to buy up more stations” (Hickey, 2002). As Drushel (1998) has pointed out, the
1996 Act allowed concentration of radio ownership, which did not result in increased listener
choice, but rather, increased advertising rates for fewer sources that were able to take “control of
a popular and pervasive mass medium” (p. 19). Howard (1998) had noted a similar trend in


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