So radio sucks now. And in order to figure out why, the government is holding a hearing on “the state of innovation and competition in the radio market” today. ‘Cause maybe the reason it sucks is that Clear Channel and Radio One and others put the bootheel to their smaller competetors with the government’s help? Could be! Most Americans are inured to Fergalicious radio at this point, but in his testimony, Merge Records co-founder, Superchunk frontman, and wacky socialist entrepreneur Mac McCaughan suggests that more radio deregulation may not be good for the listening habits of music fans and other living things, that allowing big business to chew up and spit out even more indie radio stations is, like, a bad move.
Congress should take action to allow for the growth of non-commercial radio, and the expansion of Low Power FM into more urban settings. In 2000, Congress passed legislation to limit the FCC’s ability to issue non-commercial Low Power FM radio licenses in more populated communities across the country. Lifting this ban once and for all will lead to a significant expansion of community-based stations that will prioritize local and independent content and news, not to mention programming that highlights kinds of musical genres that are routinely ignored by commercial radio.
I also want to urge this committee to take the necessary steps to ensure that our media landscape does not become even more consolidated. The deregulation that followed the 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed for unprecedented consolidation in commercial radio, which has resulted in a homogeneity that is often out-of-step with artists, entrepreneurs, media professionals and educators — not to mention listeners.
Back before the Telecom Act, the commercial radio industry was much more competitive, with deejays and programmers in markets around the country eager to play new music. This big piece of rock history is no longer, as corporate radio’s sense of adventurism, localism and risk-taking is a thing of the past. Nowadays, you are much more likely to hear new independent music in a TV show, in a car commercial, in a video game, on satellite radio or community radio stations than on commercial radio. Although label owners, artists and listeners would be thrilled to hear more indie music on commercial radio, in most cases, the chance simply does not exist.
Not much to add to these right-on sentiments, except to note how depressing this is: “You are much more likely to hear new independent music in a TV show, in a car commercial, in a video game.” (I should probably also note that McCaughan’s not the only person testifying today, whether pro or con, so as not to diminish the good/bad work of others.)
The Future Of Radio [Senate Commerce Committee]
Testimony Of Mac McCaughan Co-Founder, Merge Records [Senate Commerce Comittee]