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Since they're owned by Bain Capital now, it's really just a matter of time before they have to start selling off their stations for dirt cheap.

Already they've cut corners on programming, so much so that at one point people died because, hey, no need to have local people actually, you know, Responding to Emergency Broadcast Alerts.

So, that means that over 200 radio stations already are up for sale, and many others will soon be.

If this isn't a good time to start talking about Fairness in broadcasting, I don't know when a good time is.  

(More on the flip.  Mostly Ranting and spitballing, but you know me.)

You see, radio consolidation has resulted in several trends that are to my mind wholly repulsive.

The homogenization of music, for example, is one of those things that is only possible with an industry that has a lock on the distribution channels of music.  There's TONS of good stuff out there as far as music goes , but damned little of it is getting played.  Instead we're consistently treated to flavor of the month airbrushed pop teen/young adult.

So, I think it's about time for the FCC to step up and completely cancel these licenses.  It's clear that Clear Channel has no interest in using them as anything else than a money making monopoly, so hell with em.  They wanna sell em, they sell em back to the government for what they paid for it.  Which aren't easy to find, but after a lot of digging, I find that after the "auction" the average fee paid by each station is approximately $45,000 dollars per year.  And ya know what?  That's about all that they should get for for running it into the ground.

It's time that the FCC declares a clean slate and lets the public have at these stations.  No auction involved.  Seeing as royalties are already going to be a problem for new stations that want to play music, it's a good sign for independent and local artists!

Yup, that's right RIAA and all the rest of you folks who are concerned with people playing your music!  You want people to play your songs, well, durn it, looks like the young local broadcasters aren't going to be able to afford your rates.  Guess they'll have to rely on local entertainers and other folks who are willing to forgo instant payment for the opportunity to have their work heard.

In the end it would be a major win for the "little" people.  Maintaining a local radio station will not be nearly as profitable as it used to be, but it won't need to be.  We've already seen that the old methods of distribution are losing ground.  It's about time to acknowledge that radio at its heart is not about appealing to everyone coast to coast.

Radio needs to go back to what it is good at.  Local news.  Local stations.  Local artists.  I cheer the demise of Big Radio, and look forward to the possibilities for all of us.  

So, anybody wanna help chip in 44, 500 bucks to help buy a local station?  ;)

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's kind of funny but the big argument against (7+ / 0-)

    the fairness doctrine was it hampered the ability to "play what people wanted". It seems that now what the people want isn't to listen to the same drek. Maybe we should just let the market drive the price down on station licenses. If they're $45K/yr today think what they'll be after the coming fire sale. Heck, you might be able to pick one up for a song. Literally.

    To me progress is not so much a goal as it is a process and I believe it will not follow a straight course. Remember, the drops of water that form the river may not take the shortest path but they will still reach the ocean.

    by ontheleftcoast on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 02:00:33 PM PST

  •  detriotmechworks - I think your assumptions (8+ / 0-)

    are wishful thinking. Clear Channel won't go "belly up" and they won't be selling their stations cheap. The investors will put the company in Chapter 11 and loan it some money thereby keeping control through the workout plan. That plan may be just renegotiating the debt or eventually selling some or all of the stations. Nothing will happen quickly. The Clear Channel investors will likely wait to see if the market stabilizes.

    However, to your broader point the Flush Rush effort has dramatically reduced revenue and the value of the entire US AM radio system, all talk, sports, and music and stations are available at lower prices. This would be a great time for progressives to purchase individual stations, or a group of stations and control programming. The question is with lower revenues, who will be lending to buyers of AM stations and on what terms?

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 02:08:39 PM PST

    •  Dunno, Bain has a tendency to want "MONEY NOW" (4+ / 0-)

      I don't think that loaning money in the hopes of future revenue will be likely, especially considering how recording labels and other venues are seeing considerably reduced profits currently.

      I'm admit I'm pretty hopeful that the trends continue and spread to the FM spectrum.

      I think the FCC needs to look at current trends all over the music/entertainment industry, and address the need for fairness in broadcasting.

      I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

      by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 02:15:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bain doesn't need money now (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        detroitmechworks, ipsos

        One of the benefits available to managers of private equity over hedge funds, is that PE investors can take a much longer term view, if needed. Unless Clear Channel is in a fund where there have been huge gains from other investments I don't think you will see Bain, or the other investors, eager to take a realized loss on Clear Channel.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 02:29:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  If there is a need for "fairness in broadcasting" (0+ / 0-)

        on radio, why not on the Internet?

        Most people reading this website use the public airwaves - due to the popularity of WiFi and wireless broadband.  So if regulated fairness is a condition of using the airwaves, the Internet would be vulnerable to such regulation.

        I see not need for regulated fairness in any media - considering how media sources are now 2 orders of magnitude bigger than in the 1960s.  I also take the first amendment seriously when it says "Congress shall make no law ..."

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 05:04:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Public Good and Trust. (0+ / 0-)

          When they abandoned the fairness doctrine we got Right wing Radio for years.

          Radio serves multiple other purposes besides just information.  It also serves as an emergency broadcast medium.

          Radio stations, due to their very nature, have a monopoly on their radio specturm in their area.  As such, if one was to buy all of the radio stations in the area, they would effectively control all information transmitted in that area.

          The need for fairness in radio is due to the fact that we can't have everybody shouting at once on the same frequencies.

          There is no such need on the internet, as long as net neutrality remains in place.  However, many internet providers are attempting to circumvent that, which could lead to the same problems of homogenized thought and content that we currently see on radio.

          I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

          by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 05:11:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sounds like "fairness" can be achieved by not (0+ / 0-)

            allowing a single buyer of all stations and more than 10% of AM spectrum in a geography and inexpensive FCC licenses in areas with few stations.  There is no need for government to regulate the content beyond what applies to the Internet.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 06:26:28 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's Reagan's argument. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:


              And I completely disagree with it.

              Radio is not an interactive medium and as a result there must be checks and balances upon those who are granted a monopoly.

              Even limiting buyers has been opposed by those opposed to the Fairness Doctrine.

              There is a need to regulate content, especially considering that unopposed propaganda can and has done immeasurable harm to our political discourse.  

              I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

              by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 07:07:39 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Newspapers are less interactive than radio (0+ / 0-)

                Radios have real time callers into programs, newspaper have letters to the editor a day or two later.  Your argument applies far more to newspapers than radio stations.

                A local newspaper is far more likely to be a local monopoly than a radio station.  Communities with one local newspaper is far more common than a single radio station town.

                Being on specific frequency does not make each station a monopoly, AM and FM bands can accommodate far more channels than a typical newsstand has publications.  Few markets don't have room for more stations - and those that don't have room have by definition many stations.

                I am surprised to see such anti-First Amendment views here on dKos.  Your views are what I would expect from an authoritarian government.

                The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

                by nextstep on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:19:29 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  The first amendment is not a trump card. (0+ / 0-)

                  You can repeat that all you like, but the fact remains that the FCC grants licenses over the public airwaves, effectively creating a monopoly.  The FCC chooses where and when they allow speech.   They already regulate speech based off of those with political and financial ability to gain said license.  Is it your contention that the FCC should not regulate power and channels under the grounds of free speech? Should they allow false reports to be broadcast in the interest of freedom?  Should they allow hate speech and promotion of lies because of the sacred institution of the right to shout fire in a crowded theater?

                  The public airwaves are a public trust, and not a libertarian paradise where anything goes.  It is precisely the attitude of "Let them say whatever they want" that led the corporations of america to promote and dominate the AM band with hate propaganda for years, under the specious guise of "Freedom of Speech".

                  I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

                  by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:49:23 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  From your reply you must think (0+ / 0-)

                    Everything Rush Limbaugh says is true and he never engages in hate speech.  After all the FCC has not so much as made a complaint regarding Rush's speech but you wrote:

                    Should they allow false reports to be broadcast in the interest of freedom?  Should they allow hate speech and promotion of lies because of the sacred institution of the right to shout fire in a crowded theater?
                    The FCC does not even think it has the power to regulate speech as you claim.

                    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

                    by nextstep on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 07:40:20 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

  •  I remember driving across Wyoming on I-80 (5+ / 0-)

    in the late summer of 1971, and listening to the one radio station out of Rawlins -- farm reports, some country music, news and then the LONG version of the Who's "Won't get fooled again." 13 years later, when I was in a relatively senior position in advertising, I had to listen to a presentation from a radio station group that told us how they did a LOT of focus group testing so they could play a wider variety of music for their women 18-49 target, like Rolling Stones songs that people who listened to Tina Turner would like. How utterly cynical.

    The only way to find out about new music nowadays is to look at the playlists of the famous people on iTunes. Music radio has outright abdicated its mission. Why NOT buy a station?

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 02:12:17 PM PST

  •  Sounds like it`s time for a little.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    detroitmechworks, SteelerGrrl

    Bain Capital Profit Harvesting Time! Buy it, Strip it and then Junk it.

    Politics is like driving.... (D) forward, (R) reverse.

    by Tribecastan on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 02:22:44 PM PST

  •  I would love to see Clear Channel (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    detroitmechworks, jabney, SteelerGrrl


     I doubt the market would be in radio broadcast licenses. The market would be in using the bandwith for premium cell and data transfer. Wireless and the internet is where the money is going to be. If clear channel fails it will be viewed by those with power as a failure of the medium, not as a failure in format and programming.

    You can trust me to be objective, I've been attacked by both sides.

    by Marcellus Shale on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 02:55:38 PM PST

    •  That... is something I do fear. (5+ / 0-)

      The last thing we need to do is destroy a viable and vibrant communication medium because the corporations who are running it aren't using it properly.

      Course that may be the plan, and it fits very well with Bain/Clear Channels style.

      I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

      by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 03:03:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  using the bandwith for premium cell and data trans (3+ / 0-)

      fer"...And that might be what Bain makes their money off of. If Clear Channel pioneered this change from Radio broadcast to data and can get it past the FCC, Bain would stand to make bank. And Clear Channel is big enough to make that happen.

      If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

      by CwV on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 03:05:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  But the AM spectrum is not good for data. (5+ / 0-)

      The low frequencies (such as AM - 540-1710) are not that good for high speed data systems of the type that the cellphone/broadband industry wants. Most of the spectrum would be swallowed up in just a few channels, and then there's the whole long distance/international aspect of the band. Not going to happen: we can't arbitrarily re-assign radio spectrum use that would affect other nations.

      FM is a whole other deal however, but there still isn't enough of it to make much difference. Instead, what I see and hear happening is a lot of academic and corporate research into improving the transmission modes and speeds of the data services we have now, with inspired innovation leading the way. Some of the new changes are purely software and can update current equipment (including phones), some is hardware based.

      The cell/broadband industry have been given a lot of legal slack over the last few years, with not that much coming back to the citizen except for the privilege of higher bills. There is unused spectrum as it is, already designated for their use, and they're not using it. Hell, where I live we don't even have good 3G coverage, let alone 4G, and no carrier currently has plans to service us with 4G in even the long-term future. Yes, they've paid for their frequencies, but was it enough, and where is the payback for we, the erstwhile owners?

      Radio is one of my hobbies and I don't work in the telecoms industry. I do keep up on it and fully appreciate its long history and current decline. I'm all for a return to local ownership, local programs, and local coverage. The consolidation moves (and Rush!) have virtually killed it. It doesn't have to be that way.

  •  I am so there. (2+ / 0-)
    So, anybody wanna help chip in 44, 500 bucks to help buy a local station?  ;)
    Set up the capital campaign.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 03:11:24 PM PST

  •  i am delighted to hear of the hopefully imminent (6+ / 0-)

    demise of clear channel - i hope cumulus is next!

    i posted a diary a few days ago abouta friend who is a singer and is having to independently produce her own music and shows, EVEN though her music is rising to the top of the charts in both the u.s. u.k. and europe!

    sadly, the diary fell off without getting much notice and the timing of the fundraiser is bad - ends tomorrow without meeting the goal - only $1,300 or so shy... timing is everything and, for her, it couldn't be worse.  her dad was killed in an auto accident the day after her london show.  artists shouldn't be always pushed to the limit to be able to perform.  it is the vultures at cumulus, clear channel, the total industry that abuses real artists and keeps the rest of us from having access to really talented people!

    actually, i know three such singers.  it is another part of the attempt to "control" what artists/performers/actors/writers do... limit access to being heard/seen/read and it IS political.  by controlling who gets heard, the populace gets the limbaughs, savages and pablum as music.  bob dylan, peter, paul and mary and many voices of the sixties movement would never have been heard - heck, even woody guthrie wouldn't have been heard on today's "production" list.  music shapes opinion. books change views. theatre is dangerous to the status quo.  when one small group owns the airways, etc., minds aren't challenged to think beyond the limited information presented.

    i hope mickey luckoff (FORMERLY ran kgo810am) will re-visit his attempt to buy a s.f. station to restore the team he had before cumulus fired everyone in 2011 (except for ronn owens, the sell-out).

    •  Hell, entertainment PERIOD shapes images. (3+ / 0-)

      What really is bothering me in entertainment is the constant reinforcement of the "Chosen One" or "Lottery Winner" stereotype in heroes.

      It's an active encouragement of passivity, IMHO.

      I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

      by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 03:47:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yep, me, too. great literature isn't based around (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "lottery winners" - it is based upon people who rise above their situations and make momentous decisions and changes to their world (and that of those around them).

        when was the last time young people were exposed to "the wild duck" or "the glass menagerie"?  the destruction of public education is deliberate.  literature, music, art changes people - and the world around them.

        •  Libraries, Bookstores, Radio Stations... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Community Theaters... etc... etc...

          The destruction of public knowledge is an unfortunate and accelerating trend.

          Much of the foundation that gave us our current art forms has been systematically destroyed in the interest of the "Final Product"  

          I forget who said it, but the perfect IS the enemy of the good.  It is only by being good that we ever aspire to become better.  When the final product and the final event is handed to characters or artists as the selection of the "Chosen" it eliminates the striving that defines great works.

          Ok, getting off my soapbox now.

          I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

          by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:12:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Unless terrestrial radio goes digital (4+ / 0-)

    it will die a not-so-slow death on its own, no help from Clear Channel required. "Kids" under 35 have mp3 players and smart phones, they do not need terrestrial radio for their tuneage, and they get their news on FB and Twitter. Their smart phone is their radio which they use to listen to Kagro in the Morning on Daily Kos Radio. Yes. I went there. But, it's "radio" like this that is the future, becuz smart phones are the new transistor radios of the 21st century that make it possible.

    •  I think the problem is the fact... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that most of what is dished out over the radio is sheer, unadulterated crap.

      You do have a good point regarding Digital media and the proliferation of online music/talk, but I personally think that analog still has its place.

      I mean, people still play acoustic guitars even after the electric was developed.  Sometimes the medium is just as important as the information provided, IMHO.

      I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

      by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 05:00:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Maybe I'm old, but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    detroitmechworks, PeteZerria

    does anyone else remember pirate radio?

    During my high-school days, there was a pirate station that would show up at certain AM frequencies at certain times. On Sunday nights, they'd play old tunes by Patsy Cline or Hank Williams. On Mondays they would play comedy albums by George Carlin (uncensored!), Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby or Steve Martin. Wednesday evenings were for deep cuts by Zeppelin, Floyd, The Who, BOC, or maybe the Grateful Dead. Saturday afternoons they would play scratchy punk songs by the Ramones, Sex Pistols, the Cramps, Bauhaus, or the Clash (music I fell in love with). It was radio the way I felt radio should be.

    It was also often unreliable or hard to find, because it was illegal. I never learned who was broadcasting the awesomeness, but eventually the station went away for good.

    Whoever it was, I have him or her to thank for broadening my horizons (and especially for introducing me to punk music, which I love to this day).

    No commercial station ever did that for me.

    There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

    by Phil T Duck on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 07:37:51 PM PST

    •  Never had it around my home town. (0+ / 0-)

      Bad reception, since we were in the bottom of a valley.  We only got about three stations and those were high power.

      Interesting story though.  Thank you.

      I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

      by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 07:55:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I appreciated this diary. As it happens, one of my (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    detroitmechworks, Woody, PeteZerria

    closest friend is involved with radio, mainly listener supported radio. More recently, he's been trying to start some sort of internet radio project.

    He has excellent progressive credentials, far better than mine. I've always thought it was too bad he couldn't get hooked up with a progressive talk radio station. Well, he says his strength is live broadcasts of musical performances. For years he tried to convince me to do a political show with him, but I was too damn shy.

    Another close friend was involved in pirate radio in England back around 1980 or so. I'm just barely old enough to remember when radio could be interesting.

  •  Been doing a little research (4+ / 0-)

    for some novels I've been writing, and part of that was on music in the early radio era.  A note regarding the "traditional" business-model of radio in America.  The original draw of radio was that it was the first ever "free music".  A person could buy a radio, and then get music for FREE just coming over the airwaves.  No entrance fee.  No musicians to pay.  Twenty-four hours a day, soon enough.  

    This was a remarkable luxury for a population in which the less wealthy had never had access to professionally-performed music, or had only had it on special occasions like weddings, or through the largesse of wealthy patrons and established churches.  Phonographs were expensive, high-tech equipment that had nowhere reached affordability for the average person.  Radio was cheap in comparison.  It made good music available to the masses.  People were easily willing to listen to some idiot deliver a sales spiel every ten minutes in return for access to music.

    This model steadily eroded as acoustic recording and reproduction evolved.  The development of affordable high-fidelity LP vinyl.  The introduction of the CD.  The appearance of cheap stereo boom boxes in discount stores with sound quality equal to what had been the best available twenty years earlier.   Good headphones that didn't cost more than a week's worth of groceries.  Then the breaking of CD encoding and the widespread ability to "rip" disks via a cheap desktop computer and copy the digital file at will.  Then finally the MP3 file format, broadband communications, and widespread file-sharing.

    The populace now has access to multiple sources of free or nearly-free music, with the technology to find and choose what individuals really WANT rather than listening to a single playlist marketed to everyone.  And surprise!  We've discovered that given the ability to choose, most people have individualized tastes!  Having gained the ability to find and tailor their own music with relative ease, consumer individualism has just about destroyed the mass market for one-size-fits-all music.  And with that, the market niche for radio purveying a standardized product in thousands of localities across the nation like Clear Channel.

    Radio may still evolve to fill a need, but it's going to have to go through some major changes to remain relevant.  The talk-radio hate-streams worked for a couple of decades during which they could feed on the anger and anxiety of people caught out and economically left behind by changes in the world.  But as that generation of small-minded Angry White Males dies out, Rush Limbaugh and his buddies are dying out with it.  And because Clear Channel tried to pump its profitability out of selling one homogenized blend all over the entire country, its business model is fundamentally out of synch with the new realities.

    They're toast.  Radio as a whole is going to have to re-invent itself in order to have something to offer in the Internet Age.  With smartphones able to store personal MP3 hoards and tap into the internet as easily as AM radio used to, there might not be any need for the old broadcast radio model at all.  At some time, the FCC might decide to just divvy up the old AM and FM bands to provide more bandwidth for Wi-Fi/cellphone traffic.

    •  Hence why Radio needs to get back to... (0+ / 0-)

      what it's good at.

      Which is not a homogenized product, but rather a representative product of a particular area.  

      Radio as a way to interact with a community and a way to share potentially new experiences/music/events, etc is the way to go.

      In a way, I almost see the local radio as akin to local book stores.  Both of them were nearly wiped out by national chains which have fallen upon severely hard times.  

      Now that the national model has failed, there is a vacuum which should be filled by locals, not by another national group which will make the same mistakes.

      I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

      by detroitmechworks on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 08:08:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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