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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:  23 the Act has done quite the opposite, and we need look no further than the case of radio to illustrate the point. The U.S. Radio Industry after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 Drushel (1998) has shown that almost immediately after the 1996 Act, horizontal concentration of the top 50 radio markets in the U.S. nearly doubled as media conglomerates like Disney/ABC and CBS acquired individual stations and other ownership groups. McChesney (2001) asserted that in the five years after passage of the 1996 Act, the radio industry in the U.S. has fallen into a deep and pronounced crisis. Its democratic capacity has been stifled by radical changes in industry structure and government regulation. Radio now provides an ideal case study for scholars and citizens about the logic of a commercial media system, the implications for democracy and culture, and the corruption of the U.S. communication policy making. It deserves everyone’s close attention. (p. vi) To further illustrate the point, Wirth (2001) revealed that a nationwide format oligopoly exists in the radio industry as more than 50% of all U.S. listeners who tune to a specific music format were reached by only four radio station groups. Wirth (2002) has also shown that direct format competition has decreased since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as several consolidated radio ownership groups have adopted a “spatial preemption” programming strategy in which stations owned by the same group “stop competing against themselves and spread their offerings into uncontested, closely related products so as to deter competition by new entrants” (p. 45; see also Berry & Waldfogel, 1999; and Judd, 1985). Hence, the Act has “negatively impacted the radio listener” (Wirth, 2002, p. 44). Will the FCC let the “genie” out of the bottle? It appears that the FCC may be overlooking a large body of evidence, particularly in the case of radio, that has indicated several negative effects of ownership consolidation for

Authors: Blevins, Jeffrey. and Brown, Duncan.
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the Act has done quite the opposite, and we need look no further than the case of radio to
illustrate the point.
The U.S. Radio Industry after the Telecommunications Act of 1996
Drushel (1998) has shown that almost immediately after the 1996 Act, horizontal
concentration of the top 50 radio markets in the U.S. nearly doubled as media conglomerates like
Disney/ABC and CBS acquired individual stations and other ownership groups. McChesney
(2001) asserted that in the five years after passage of the 1996 Act, the radio industry in the U.S.
has fallen into a deep and pronounced crisis. Its democratic
capacity has been stifled by radical changes in industry structure
and government regulation. Radio now provides an ideal case
study for scholars and citizens about the logic of a commercial
media system, the implications for democracy and culture, and the
corruption of the U.S. communication policy making. It deserves
everyone’s close attention. (p. vi)
To further illustrate the point, Wirth (2001) revealed that a nationwide format oligopoly exists in
the radio industry as more than 50% of all U.S. listeners who tune to a specific music format
were reached by only four radio station groups. Wirth (2002) has also shown that direct format
competition has decreased since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as several consolidated
radio ownership groups have adopted a “spatial preemption” programming strategy in which
stations owned by the same group “stop competing against themselves and spread their offerings
into uncontested, closely related products so as to deter competition by new entrants” (p. 45; see
also Berry & Waldfogel, 1999; and Judd, 1985). Hence, the Act has “negatively impacted the
radio listener” (Wirth, 2002, p. 44).
Will the FCC let the “genie” out of the bottle?
It appears that the FCC may be overlooking a large body of evidence, particularly in the
case of radio, that has indicated several negative effects of ownership consolidation for


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